Despite being in pain, Lakers star Kobe Bryant has seen plenty of playing… (Jae C. Hong / Associated…)
Kobe Bryant's wrist pain is obviously tolerable. So is his historically troublesome knee.
What's creeping up now on him is playing time. There's been a lot of it. Forty-three minutes at Utah. Forty-one at home against Cleveland. Forty-four against the Clippers.
He finally took a break with 38 minutes against Dallas on Monday. Only, that's not really a break.
He is playing 37.7 minutes a game this season, way up from 33.9 minutes last season and more than his career average of 36.4.
"I do want to get it down because he's played a ton of minutes too early right now," Lakers Coach Mike Brown said Tuesday.
The Lakers (10-5) might miss Shannon Brown, not so much for his game as his ability to log time at backup shooting guard. He averaged 8.7 points and a more important 19.1 minutes last season before bolting to Phoenix for a one-year, $3.5-million contract. He is averaging 9.3 points and 21.6 minutes with the Suns.
The Lakers are going with backup-shooting-guard-by-committee, often relying on Jason Kapono, who is more of a small forward, and sometimes Andrew Goudelock, a rookie who was drafted in the second round.
Bryant, 33, didn't talk to reporters Tuesday. The Lakers won't practice Wednesday, using it as a travel day to get to Miami, where they start a difficult back-to-back Thursday before playing Friday at Orlando.
Brown said the simple solution would be for the second unit to play better. Easier said than done?
"I know it will put me at ease a little bit more and allow me to sit him a little bit more," Brown said. "I did talk to him about increasing his minutes right now in order to help us win a few games so that we were able to get a little push in the win-loss column."
Bryant's averaging 3.9 turnovers, his most since 4.1 a game in 2004-05, the first season after the Lakers traded Shaquille O'Neal.
His scoring and shooting accuracy haven't been suffering. Bryant is averaging 30.8 points, well above his career mark of 25.3 points, and is shooting 45.6%, slightly better than his career 45.4% accuracy.
"He's been doing a great job," center Andrew Bynum said. "He's definitely been asked to score more this year with the loss of [Lamar Odom], and so have Pau [Gasol] and myself. From our three, we really need big games every night in order for us to be a competitive team."
The Miami Heat should win the championship by a landslide, according to general managers polled by NBA.com.
The Heat received 74% of the vote, followed by Oklahoma City (15%) and the Lakers (7%).
An overwhelming majority (68%) picked the Thunder to win the Western Conference, followed by the Lakers (18%). Portland and San Antonio each received 7%.
Bryant didn't get any MVP attention in the poll: 56% predicted Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant would win the award and the other 44% picked Miami's LeBron James.
Bryant was still believed to be the best shooting guard in the league, earning 56% of the vote over Miami's Dwyane Wade (41%).
It's still a Lakers town as far as GMs are concerned: 78% picked the Lakers to win the Pacific Division and 22% picked the Clippers.
Other interesting winners: Derek Fisher was picked as the active player who would someday make the best head coach, Bryant was called the toughest player in the leagues, and Bryant was the player most GMs would want taking a shot with the game on the line.