Phil Jackson plans to limit Kobe Bryant to 16-18 minutes Wednesday against Sacramento
Lakers Coach Phil Jackson approached Kobe Bryant at some point this weekend to reiterate one significant point as Bryant is recovering from his surgically repaired right knee.
"Just don't push it too fast," Jackson recalled telling Bryant following Monday's practice at the team's facility in El Segundo. "That's all. We're doing it the way we want to do it."
Bryant didn't practice Monday and didn't speak to reporters afterward. The Lakers have three exhibition games in the next week, beginning Wednesday in Las Vegas against Sacramento, and Jackson says he plans to play Bryant no more than 16 to 18 minutes in those contests.
"Any more than that right now I think is expending a little bit too much [energy]," Jackson said.
Jackson's desire for Bryant to pace himself contrasted with his approach last week against FC Barcelona when the Laker played 25 minutes, something Jackson thought proved too long but conceded since Bryant wanted to test his rhythm, help the Lakers win against FC Barcelona and perform in front of an international crowd.
"I think the regular season is going to be fine," Jackson said of Bryant's timetable. "I think right now there's obviously conditioning and strength factors that are both there. He's working really hard and he's feeling OK about it, but game-shape, not ready quite yet."
His request for Bryant to pace himself also coincides with Jackson's overall approach in getting the Lakers back to full speed. He followed a three-hour practice Saturday by giving the team a day off Sunday and then cutting practice short to an hour and 50 minutes on Monday.
"I thought we'd go longer," Jackson said. "But we played a game and the game went off quickly and they finished it quickly."
Player accounts appeared split on whether that was the real reason Jackson ended practice early. Lakers forward Lamar Odom said, "We worked hard and we worked efficient and got some things done and got better today." But Lakers guard Derek Fisher said he wasn't convinced anything that happened in practice led to the team earning early dismissal.
"I would bet that he has plans that he has to be somewhere by a certain time," Fisher said of Jackson. "That is probably why we got out of practice a little bit earlier than normal. There wasn't anything on the court that impacted that one bit, not at all. Even Phil is getting his sea legs back from the trip abroad and the longer practice that we had on Saturday. He wanted to give us some time back that he took us from Saturday."
Asked if Fisher has that luxury in being able to call off practice whenever he wants, Fisher let out a huge grin.
"No, not a chance," he said, smiling. "You can try. He's a great listener. But it doesn't mean it'll always go your way."
-- Mark Medina
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