Why Kobe Bryant Resting Early Is Key to L.A. Lakers Success in 2012-13

Dwight Howard and Steve Nash may be the reasons the Lakers rank as one of this league's most improved teams, but Kobe Bryant remains the reason they rank as one of its best.

The momentous summer was good for some anticipatory excitement, but we all know who the difference-maker will be come May (and hopefully June). Howard and Nash have both come close, but only the iconic Laker has walked away with title in hand.

If this season is to yield his sixth, this franchise needs Bryant as much as it ever has.

Without him, the Lakers amount to a very good, but very one-dimensional team—an offense missing a dynamic perimeter scorer and a proven closer. The new-look Lakers may be better, but they're assured of very little without a healthy and rested Bryant.

So, it should come as no surprise that Bryant didn't practice on Friday, Oct. 5, on account of a sore right foot—before returning on Saturday and then playing 19 minutes against the Golden State Warriors in the club's first preseason contest.

Official explanations aside, that Friday absence just might have had more to do with keeping the 34-year-old fresh than it did keeping him healthy.

The Los Angeles Times' Mike Bresnahan reports that the foot itself wasn't much of a problem:

I've been told that Kobe would be practicing/playing if this was the regular season. Doesn't sound like his sore foot is a big issue. #rest

— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) October 6, 2012 While there's always the possibility Mike Brown was simply taking the utmost precaution, chances are his rationale for sitting Bryant had more to do with making good on a goal he established way back at the beginning of last season: Playing his most essential superstar fewer minutes.

Despite the good intentions, of course, Kobe wound up averaging 38.5 minutes a game—more than he even played in 2010-11.

In fairness ...

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