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Lakers' Kobe Bryant feeling springy in the autumn of his career

Lakers Basketball

Bryant, 34, says formerly balky right knee feels good and didn't need a repeat of procedure he had last year. Lakers plan to limit his minutes in his 17th season.

October 03, 2012|By Ben Bolch, Los Angeles Times
  • Kobe Bryant talks to reporters during the Lakers' media day.
Kobe Bryant talks to reporters during the Lakers' media day. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

Kobe Bryant was a showstopper Tuesday, bringing the Lakers' first practice to a momentary standstill when he dunked over Chris Douglas-Roberts.

Yep, his knee is doing just fine.

Bryant may not be as spry as he was even a few years ago, but his once balky right knee is not putting a drag on his capacity for plays that trigger loud whoops from teammates.

He revealed after practice that his summer schedule had not included a stop in Dusseldorf, Germany, for a procedure on his knee similar to the one he had last year.

"A little busy," Bryant said, alluding to the Olympic gold medal he won with the U.S. national team.

Did Bryant, who turned 34 in August, anticipate needing a follow-up procedure on the knee?

"You mean like I'll fly to Germany during the season?" Bryant asked.

Or maybe the doctor could come to you?

"No," Bryant said. "I think I'll be fine."

Bryant said he did not feel drained after playing in the Olympics; he said the competition actually helped prepare him for the NBA season, which starts Oct. 30 against Dallas.

"Sometimes it's harder if you have the summer off," he said. "You get out of shape and then it takes more toll on your body to actually get back in shape as opposed to never really being out of shape and you kind of pick right up and you're already at that level, so it's actually a little less strenuous."

The Lakers will be monitoring Bryant's minutes closely heading into his 17th NBA season. He averaged 38.5 minutes per game last season, an uptick of nearly five minutes from the preceding season.

Coach Mike Brown acknowledged that he doesn't want a repeat.

"If I can, I'd definitely love to keep his minutes down and not have them up to 38," Brown said. "But I'm sure he'll tell you he can play 48, which is probably true if he needed to. But we feel like we have a deep team this year and hopefully at the end of the day it leads to reduced minutes for him."

Shannon Brown's departure before last season left the Lakers without a quality backup shooting guard, leading to increased minutes for Bryant. Enter sharpshooter Jodie Meeks, who made 37.1% of his three-point shots in his first three pro seasons before signing with the Lakers in August.

"I think that's one of the reasons they got me," Meeks said, "to keep his minutes down and keep him fresh."

Bryant said he'd be happy with fewer minutes preceding what is expected to be an extended playoff push.

"It's always a goal to have good players rest as much as possible for the season and be as fresh as possible for the postseason," Bryant said. "We'll see. I'm ready either way."

ben.bolch@latimes.com

Times staff writer Mike Bresnahan contributed to this story.

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