Kobe's minutes to be limited initially

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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Kobe Bryant was on the court for nearly every minute of the seven games he played last April before tearing his Achilles.

He'll be much scarcer when he makes his long-awaited return in the Los Angeles Lakers' game against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday.

"I don't think it's a magical number," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said after practice Saturday when asked about a minute range for Bryant. "He's totally well and ready to go. I think he'll be limited by his wind and ability to be able to take the pounding. So, I would be surprised if more than in the twenties. It shouldn't be any more than that."

No matter how long Bryant plays, his impact will be felt, according to D'Antoni.

"He's a big piece," D'Antoni said. "When you throw that boulder in the water, there's going to be some ripples. Serious ripples."

Jodie Meeks will be the Lakers' player most immediately affected as he loses his starting spot at shooting guard to accommodate Bryant.

"I figured it was coming but I know for me personally, my role doesn't change," said Meeks, the Lakers' third-leading scorer this season with an average of 13.5 points on 50 percent shooting.

But among the biggest questions surrounding Bryant's return nearly eight months after he left the lineup is whether he can still produce like he did when he averaged 27.3 points and 6.0 assists a season ago.

"I don't think right to start with, but give him a month and then he should be back to those numbers," D'Antoni said.

The way he gets to those averages will be different for the former slam dunk contest champion, who was still throwing down some vintage dunks last season prior to injury, D'Antoni said.

"He's not going to be above the rim for a while, which is fine," D'Antoni said. "There were some great players that played below the rim, and he'll have to do that for a little bit. He'll control the game, and his presence will be exemplary."

With Steve Nash (nerve root irritation) back at practice but ruled out Sunday, and Jordan Farmar expected to be sidelined another three weeks with a hamstring tear, Bryant, the fourth-highest scorer in league history, will be called upon to be a distributor.

"I think that's mostly what he'll do to start with," D'Antoni said. "Try to get his game, get in rhythm. He was doing that last year. The last 40 games that's what he did mostly -- six assists, seven assists. I expect the same thing."

D'Antoni said that after such a long layoff, the 35-year-old Bryant might not storm out of the gates.

"I think there will be some ups and downs," D'Antoni said. "Now, it's Kobe Bryant, so I don't know that. Anybody normal would have ups and downs. You might play well the first couple games then fall off a little bit or start off kind of slow and build your way up. So, it will be an adjustment period for him and also for us."

Outside of adjusting the starting lineup with Bryant for Meeks, D'Antoni will keep the rest of the first five intact. That means Robert Sacre will start for the second straight game and just the fifth time of his career.

"We're looking for defense and guys that really buy into our system, in the sense of his fit is perfect for what we do, his energy," D'Antoni said of Sacre, who is averaging 11.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in his last two games. "I thought he played real well."

Sacre said Bryant also played well in practice this week.

"He never lost anything," Sacre said. "He's pretty much been the same player the whole time. It's been really good to have him work in practice and look like nothing ever happened."

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