Murmurs started long before Kobe Bryant came back from injury: he'll just get hurt again; he's lost a step; he's going to be a shadow of what he was; he's too old, etc.
Well, Bryant have proved just about everyone wrong this season, but he is old.
Displaying signs of fatigue, Bryant managed to play with spectacular focus and lack of focus at the same time. Against the Pistons, he focused on scoring for one short stretch in the third quarter and quickly logged 12 points over two minutes and 22 seconds. For the remaining 31 minutes and four seconds Bryant spent on the floor, he focused on playing winning basketball despite battling severe exhaustion.
Bryant would get a triple-double, but this was not the type worth celebrating. Bryant finished with 13 assists and 12 points, but his 10 turnovers glared out of the box score. In comparison, the entire Pistons' team only had 14 turnovers on the night.
More often than not, Bryant's errors came for the correct reasons. He was attempting to make the correct play for his teammates, and his 13 assists were evidence that he succeeded more often than he failed. His team winning and leading by as many as 21 points also served as evidence that he was playing the correct way.
With a month of the season complete, Bryant has displayed that his skill level is elite, but fatigued will continue to be a mounting factor.
After Tuesday's game, Bryant spoke with reporters and shared insights into his exhaustion. When asked whether he was feeling under the weather, he played the role of wise old man and referenced the father of Greek Mythology, often associated with Father Time.
Lakers coach Byron Scott highlighted the point of focus with Bryant: "This is all about trying to preserve his body as much as possible and let him get rest. Recovery time is the most important thing right now. We want him to be as strong as he can be for the games."
So, with Bryant clearly showing signs of exhaustion, wouldn't it make sense to rest the 36-year-old for a night?
On Wednesday, the Lakers play on the second night of a back-to-back on the road against the second best team in the Eastern Conference. One would think giving a tiring and aging superstar a night off would make sense under the circumstances. With or without Bryant, a loss is the most likely outcome against the Wizards.
Providing Bryant a night off on Wednesday would, conceivably, allow the shooting guard to rest for two days and regain his footing for Friday's rivalry game.
With or without Bryant, Friday offers a winnable game against the rival Boston Celtics. Having a refreshed Bryant, the Lakers would have a strong probability of beating a Celtics' team that has lost seven of nine games at home this season. Ultimately, two wins on a three-game road trip would be another successful roadie for LA.
More in line with the real world, Bryant will probably treat and rest his body throughout the night, sleep into the afternoon and show up at the game. Then, against Washington, the Lakers will try to beat the odds with a supremely talented but incredibly fatigued superstar.
Worth pointing out, the Wizards beat their last visitors, the Miami Heat, by 21 points. That was on Monday. On Wednesday, the Lakers visit the Wizards, but no. 24 should consider taking a night off.