NBA: Kobe Bryant recalls 'epic duels' in career against Jazz
Kobe Bryant is inching nearer to playing an entire season's worth of his career against the Utah Jazz.
On Wednesday, the 10-time first-team All-NBA player played his 79th career game against the Jazz. Going into the game, he was 45-33 all-time against the Jazz, including the playoffs.
"I've had some epic duels against them," Bryant said following Wednesday's shoot-around. "When I first came in the league, they were getting the better of us pretty much every single time every year. Then things started turning around for us and started being a little more pleasant seeing them."
In 54 regular-season games, Bryant has averaged 26 points, 4.2 assists and 4.6 rebounds against the Jazz.
"That's a lot of basketball," Bryant said. "Obviously, I'm pretty familiar with this arena. ... The fans, the city, I've been here many, many times."
Of course, a full season for Bryant isn't always 82 games. Ten times in his career, he's played fewer than 79 regular-season games. Utah isn't alone in high number of matchups with Bryant. In fact, Bryant has played nine teams more times in the regular season than he has the Jazz (54).
Bryant has played the Clippers more in the regular season than any other team, facing the Lakers' crosstown rivals 61 times.
At this point, it's nearly inevitable that Bryant will hit 82 career games against the Jazz. The Jazz play at Los Angeles twice this season, on Dec. 9 and Jan. 25.
"These two franchises have been around for a long time," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "He doesn't miss games that he doesn't haven't to miss. He's such a competitor. We know who he is."
In six minutes against Memphis on Monday, his first meaningful floor time of the season, second-year Jazz guard Alec Burks was ineffective and, often, appeared a bit lost.
Corbin later said he erred in playing Burks alongside Jeremy Evans and other Jazz reserves.
"I should have mixed in a little bit more and maybe had some of these guys that play a few more minutes in with that group to ease the pressure a little bit," he said Wednesday.
Against the Lakers, Burks redeemed himself. The former lottery pick out of Colorado played only 2:16 in the first three games, but on Wednesday was inserted with 2:31 remaining in the first quarter. In his nine minutes, Burks drew a charge on Bryant, drove baseline to dunk over Antawn Jamison and had two assists.
"When you're a professional, you're a ball player, you can play anywhere against anybody," he said.
By the time Burks was replaced by Gordon Hayward with 5:31 remaining in the second quarter, the Jazz lead had grown from 21-17 when he entered to 43-28.
Burks played longest with an effective, smaller second unit of himself, Jamaal Tinsley, Randy Foye, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors. The odd man out in the Jazz rotation appeared to be DeMarre Carroll, who did not play against Memphis on Monday.
After spending the preseason and first week of the regular season talking about getting Burks into the rotation, Corbin finally seemed to find a way to do it.
"You work your butt off all summer to be in the rotation and play, and he deserves to play some," Corbin said before Wednesday's game. "It's just where the rotation is the first few games he hasn't gotten the minutes."