With 22 games left on the schedule, the Lakers have two primary goals: develop their young talent and send Kobe Bryant off as best as they can.
Head coach Byron Scott sees the latter mission as a success as long as Bryant can play in the team’s final game on April 13 against Utah.
“That last home game here, I want him to be able to walk off the court,” Scott said at Monday’s practice. “That’s the biggest thing that I want to accomplish with him this season.”
Each of Bryant’s last three seasons has ended prematurely due to injury. In attempt to avoid this, Scott plans to play the 20-year veteran about 27-28 minutes per games.
Bryant has rarely practiced with his fellow Lakers this year, instead using the off days to rest.
“He’s at this point in his career obviously — at least how I feel — that he doesn’t need to practice,” Scott said. “He knows as much about basketball as all our (other) guys put together.”
Meanwhile, the other Lakers continue adding more to their basketball database, such as a new offensive set that Scott put in before Friday’s game against Memphis.
Jordan Clarkson said that “finding new things” to learn, including this set, helps to keep the team’s focus sharpened as the season winds down.
“The biggest thing is you try to find ways to just keep them interested as much as possible,” Scott said. “You gotta sometimes massage their minds a little bit.”
But it’s not just Scott who has been giving the young players something to work on. Bryant himself has frequently been seen coaching up his teammates from the bench.
Clarkson credited Bryant’s latest advice for his strong play during the month of February, in which the sophomore averaged 17.8 points while shooting 49.6 percent overall and 45.8 percent on 3-pointers.
“He’s been stressing to me (about) being able to play off the ball,” Clarkson said. “Moving without the ball. He’s always harping on me, talking about Steph Curry. We all see him for his flashy dribbles and stuff like that, but the dude’s always moving and that’s why he gets open shots.”
Likewise, the young Lakers also want the best for Bryant.
“We learn something all the time, every game, from obviously his leadership,” Julius Randle said. “I’ve watched him for such a long time, so I’ve learned so much just from watching him. I’d just like to see him go out and enjoy himself.”