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Scott Howard-Cooper

His shin injury far behind him, Kobe Bryant is running at full speed in the playoffs so far.
Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Unexpected rest at season's end a playoff boon for Bryant

Posted May 4 2012 9:29AM

DENVER -- Playoff Kobe Bryant talks less, smiles less and provides less insight on his game, especially his health, without proper security clearance than Regular Season Kobe Bryant. If it's late April, then straight-face time begins.

So for Playoff Kobe to reveal how much the previous four months of the NBA calendar took out of him is noteworthy. Even if it isn't a surprise given the schedule-on-a-conveyor belt season and even if it is in the context of illustrating how good he feels now. Which is the whole point: to underline how a ridiculously heavy work load the first 66 games and an injury in the final days before the postseason have not hurt him the first two since.

Game 1 against the Nuggets: 37 minutes.

Game 2 against the Nuggets: 40 minutes.

The post-lockout schedule that many wrongly predicted would wreck older players has been an ally in the end. Bryant is 33 years old, but has extra seasons on the tires from all the Lakers' long postseason runs. If anything, the calendar has broken perfectly for the Lakers in the strangest of ways, to where an injury that caused understandable concern at the time has been transformed into a welcome break in retrospect.

He was at 38.5 minutes a game when the shin injury hit, after all, too much for a player coming off a 2010-11 of missing most every practice because of a knee problem, too much for a leader who would need a lot more than a quarter tank in May and perhaps June. Too much no matter what, because Regular Season Kobe Bryant should not be fourth in the league in minutes behind only 27-year-old Luol Deng (39.4), 23-year-old Kevin Love (39) and 23-year-old Kevin Durant (38.6).

Getting kicked in the leg in the first quarter on March 31 was Bryant being forced into inactivity from April 7-18 (a seven-game span) as an inflamed tendon sheath healed with treatment and the aid of a walking boot. Then, after returning to play 30 and 49 minutes, he rested the entire regular-season finale, making it eight of the final 10 games as a spectator.

"It helped tremendously," Playoff Kobe Bryant said after Game 2 in what accounts for an expansive answer on his health. "I feel great."

Even the playoff schedule has broken right. He played Sunday, again on Tuesday, then moved into another rest period of close to three full days off. The best-of-seven series resumes tonight at Pepsi Center with Los Angeles holding a commanding 2-0 lead.

Bryant has gone from playing nearly five minutes a game more than the previous season to logging 156 minutes since April 7. Total minutes. In 27 days.

This is, suddenly, not a man being overworked.

"I thought the break was good for him," Brown said. "Obviously he knows his body better than anybody else does. But I thought the break was good for him because I had been playing him a lot of minutes. You've got the luxury of a guy like Kobe Bryant, you at times can use him too much.

"He may not admit this, but I was playing him more than I wanted to and I was asking him to do more than I would have liked throughout the course of the season. Now the injury comes up and now he's got to deal with this being at the end of the year, playing a ton of minutes, plus the injury. And so it was good for him to sit out a few games and get his body back to where he thinks it should be going into the playoffs."

That rest for Bryant would not have come without the shin injury.

"I probably would have kept playing him," Brown said. "Hopefully not as many minutes as I did. But I kept saying that the whole year and didn't change. It was a good thing for him and a good thing for us."

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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