Kobe’s well-publicized knee issues are ones Gary Vitti, the Lakers’ long-time trainer, thinks can be “dealt with” heading into next season (make sure to read the whole thing, from the team’s website): “Kobe Bryant said in his exit interview that he wasn’t able to reach his physical peak this past season since he came into the season off knee surgery, couldn’t strength train how he would have like to, and had to build up strength despite not really practicing. How did that affect his season? Vitti: ‘Just logically it’s going to affect anyone that doesn’t participate in training camp. It all starts there. Coming into camp, we’re still doing rehab, so Kobe was behind all the time and could never really catch up, which has something to do with the surgery, something to do with the sheer miles of wear and tear and the attrition the game has on him. So when we do look at an entire season, we look at how what what we’re doing in October and how that will affect the player in February, March, April and so on. There’s no exact science to it, but it’s about having a feel for an NBA season and that player … and I’ve had Kobe since he was 17. He and I operate on another plane together where there’s trust, and he knows his body quite well, so through that we decided we had to hold him back from practices to look at the longer term. We didn’t want to leave what he had on the practice floor, so we could have it for games. And of course that was not ideal.’ Bryant said there’s ‘another level’ he can reach physically, the one we’re so accustomed to seeing where he creates separation from defenders and so on. So the question is, how does his having a chance to come in healthier balance out with the attrition you mentioned? Vitti: ‘We have to do some things so that he feels more comfortable and explosive with that right knee that he’s had repetitive surgeries on. Once we get to that place, then we’d like to see him practice more, but we don’t want the time that he spends on the court being spent on frivolous things. You gotta get him out there when he needs to be out there, and get him off the floor when he doesn’t. It’s more about quality time than quantity time.’ Can he be stronger if those things are followed the right way? Vitti: ‘Yes, I do think he has more progression there, but structurally there are some issues that cannot be reversed, but can be dealt with. There are a couple of cards we have up our sleeve that we plan on playing, and he and I have been in daily communication about that.'”
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