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Rigors of NBA still don't get old for Bryant

October 03, 2008|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

Phil Jackson called him a senior citizen, and Derek Fisher gleefully welcomed Kobe Bryant to the three-decade club.

Opponents, however, will probably view the reigning most valuable player as something less than geriatric.

Father Time logged another milestone in August, hanging a 30th year on Bryant, though the 10-time All-Star said he felt as spry as ever with his 13th NBA season around the next bend.

"I feel great," Bryant said recently. "I could run all day."

His minutes have accrued throughout the years -- 31,571 in the regular season and 5,948 more in the playoffs -- but Bryant is still way behind the staggering 62,297 minutes played by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar during a 20-year NBA career.

But Bryant doesn't seem to want to slow down.

He is nearing the end of a calendar year that has already included 21 playoff games and a lengthy summer run with Team USA. Still, he shrugged off the wear and tear on his body. "Honestly? Not at all. None. I feel fantastic," he said.

If age won't slow down Bryant, Jackson will try.

The Lakers coach is limiting Bryant's action in training camp and probably will hold him out of an exhibition game or two. Jackson also said Bryant would play fewer minutes this season, though Bryant practically rolled his eyes when told about it.

"That was a goal of ours last season and I still played 40 minutes," Bryant said. "Whether it's 40 minutes, 43 minutes, whatever it is, I feel fine."

Bryant is coming off an extremely productive season in which he averaged 28.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.4 assists in 38.9 minutes a game while pulling the Lakers to within two victories of a championship.

He's currently playing small forward instead of guard, a change from last season as Lamar Odom is shifted experimentally to ballhandling guard. Bryant will also ditch the tape job he had on the ring and pinkie fingers of his right hand last season while battling a torn ligament in the pinkie.

"The scar tissue's really settled," said Bryant, who opted against surgery after the Olympics.

"It's pretty thick right now. It still gets sore when I get whacked on it pretty good, but in terms of coming out of place or me missing games because of it, I'd have to completely re-injure it."

Odom still under gun

The Odom experiment continues in practice, as does Jackson's watchful, and critical, eye.

"He's not in shape. Lamar's not ready to play," Jackson said. "That's a conditioning thing that still has to be found, but they're starting to find their conditioning little by little."

Jackson seemed disappointed, if not surprised.

"In our exit meetings with Lamar [in June], we talked about the fact that he hasn't had an opportunity to work on his body in the off-season for the last three or four years. This was really an opportunity for him to strengthen his shoulder and do some things that were going to help him in a pivotal year for him. Not only for him, but for us."

Odom is in the final year of a contract that pays him $14.1 million this season. The Lakers hope to take him out of a crowded front line by moving him to the backcourt on offense.

All-Star Andrew?

When told that Andrew Bynum hoped to be an All-Star this season, Jackson paused before answering.

"I guess it's good to have goals," he said.

Jackson was careful with his words for that question but was more assertive when told that Bynum hoped to average 20 points a game this season.

"Not possible. There's just not enough offense for everybody to do that kind of stuff," Jackson said.

"Pau [Gasol]'s going to do what he's done in the past. Lamar's a guy that can fit in and do a variety of things. Kobe's going to be a scorer. And [Derek Fisher] has to have shots to be effective."

Jackson was more approving of another of Bynum's goals -- 10 rebounds a game.

"That's realistic. Ten rebounds, three blocks . . . maybe a charge a game," he said. "Those are things that we want to see happen with the defense. That's going to make us a good team."

Thanks, he needed that

A report delivered Thursday by former federal prosecutor Lawrence Pedowitz found no substance to allegations of game-fixing by disgraced former NBA referee Tim Donaghy, including Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference finals in which the Lakers beat Sacramento.

"It's wonderful to know we still won that series," Jackson said sarcastically.


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