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What's next for Kobe Bryant?

The Raptors are up next, and Bryant has a high-scoring history against them.

February 04, 2009|Mike Bresnahan

TORONTO — As long as Kobe Bryant scores 61 points every night, the Lakers should be just fine.

But there's that little issue of fatigue over the course of the season, not to mention the difficulty of actually accomplishing it consistently, and, of course, the fact that his coach doesn't want him expending that effort every night at the risk of shutting out other teammates.

Bryant's outburst Monday against the New York Knicks was something to behold -- 19 for 31 shooting, 20 for 20 from the free-throw line and two Madison Square Garden records -- though Lakers Coach Phil Jackson assumed his customary share-the-ball mind-set a day later, lest the triangle offense become a little too one-sided.

Jackson exhibited a serious stance when asked if Bryant could sustain that type of blistering pace, perhaps even tonight against the Toronto Raptors, the same franchise he burned for 81 points a little more than three years ago.

"We don't want him to because we have so many other players that can contribute," Jackson said. "Obviously with Andrew [Bynum] out, we're missing a piece of scoring there that's been effective for us. At the end of the game [against New York], Pau [Gasol] was feeding Kobe and finding him in certain situations where he probably could have persisted in the post himself.

"I talked to [Bryant] after the game and said, 'Why don't you let me know when you're going to go off like that before a ballgame so we can measure it out accordingly?' But when he started out that hot, everybody fed into it and it just kept accumulating."

It's not the first time Jackson has advocated a return to normalcy after a Bryant scoring spree. It's ingrained in Jackson's basketball mind that one player simply can't win games over and over again.

Bryant wasn't available for interviews Tuesday, but the immediate aftermath of Monday's game was a fun time for him to glance back at his rookie season, when he scored his first NBA points with a pair of shaky free throws at Madison Square Garden in November 1996.

"I remember coming in and just being nervous as heck and weighing like 80 pounds soaking wet and having to guard John Wallace. It was a tough one for me," he said, smiling. "My career has progressed since then, for sure."

The Lakers, meanwhile, keep trying to forge ahead without Bynum, who will be out eight to 12 weeks because of a torn medial collateral ligament in his right knee.

Count Jackson among those who think Bynum will return from his injury, unlike last season -- "Last year's entirely different," Jackson said -- but the Lakers will not rush him back into the lineup.

As it is, Bynum will miss at least 27 of the Lakers' final 36 regular-season games and might not return until the first round of the playoffs, according to the timetable issued by the team.

"We won't put him on the floor until we feel he's close to 100%," Jackson said. "But the big thing is for a big guy like that, you can't accentuate or duplicate the type of play that you have to play in the NBA until you're on the floor. Even practice doesn't simulate what's going to happen when you get out there with those bodies banging around.

"He only has a week or two, and maybe three, to try to get back [when he receives medical clearance] and play at the level he left off. We don't know what that's going to bring. So we're just going to have to wait and see."

Mihm minutes?

Backup center Chris Mihm did not play against the undersized Knicks, but his playing time would increase "without a doubt" against teams with size, Jackson said.

Mihm, in the final year of a contract that pays him $2.5 million this season, had two points, six rebounds and three turnovers after Bynum was injured Saturday against Memphis.

"This is my role on this team, to try and be ready if anything like this happened," Mihm said. "I feel for Andrew. . . . I'm ready to fill in here and get as many minutes as Phil's going to give me to help out Pau and Lamar [Odom]."



Lakers tonight


Time: 4 PST

On the air: TV: Channel 9; Radio: 570; 1330.

Where: Air Canada Centre.

Records: Lakers 38-9, Raptors 19-31.

Record vs. Raptors (2007-08): 2-0.

Update: The Raptors were expected to contend for a playoff spot, but they've have had a slew of injuries and own one of the league's worst home records (9-14). Forward-center Jermaine O'Neal (sore knee) and point guard Jose Calderon (strained groin) both recently have returned to the lineup.

-- Mike Bresnahan

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