Bryant says he's likely out vs. Celtics
Kobe Bryant told reporters Wednesday that he is doubtful for the Lakers' Thursday game against the Boston Celtics and expects to miss his fifth straight game, sixth if you include the All-Star Game, because of a lack of strength and lingering pain in his left leg and ankle.
"Right now, it's a no," Bryant said. "If I wake up tomorrow and I feel drastically different then I'll play. But, I doubt it.
"It's sore. I can't push off of it enough to play so I'll just take my time, do therapy around the clock and go after it as aggressively as I play."
Bryant said strained tendons and muscles in his left leg are bothering him most, not the sprained ligament in his left ankle.
"The tendon is a little different," Bryant said. "It's not just a sprained ankle or something like that. I've played through sprained ankles. Tendons are a little different. They kind of have their own agenda of when they want to heal."
Bryant has gone 12 days without playing a game since scratching himself from the lineup against Portland on Feb. 6 and should he decide to sit out against the Celtics, he can push his rest period to 18 days before the Lakers play in Memphis on Feb. 23.
"It helps," Bryant said about the sparse upcoming schedule for Los Angeles. "It doesn't have anything to do with tomorrow. It just helps the fact that I have time to recover more. My philosophy on injuries is if you're healthy you play. It doesn't matter what the upcoming schedule is. If you're good enough to go, you go."
Bryant was in good spirits and joked that he still ran wind sprints with the team in the warm-up pants and flip-flops he was wearing. The fact his team is 4-0 without him and winning by an average of 13.5 per game in that span had a lot to do with his mood.
"I'm extremely proud," Bryant said. "I think they're playing with a great sense of urgency and I think because of that they're playing extremely well."
"I'm very excited about it. I go home and put my head down to sleep for a couple hours, or however long I sleep, and I'm happy because the guys are playing with a lot of confidence and playing well -- they're playing well. I sleep better when the guys are performing well."
Lakers coach Phil Jackson was at peace with Bryant's decision, stating that he thinks it will help the team in the long run.
"I trust him to think that he's looking at the long picture down here and that's good enough for us, because it's the long picture we're looking at," Jackson said.
Bryant echoed that sentiment.
"It's important for everybody to understand what we're playing for," Bryant said. "I would love to come back and play, but I'm not ready so I won't. We want to win a championship and we have to do what's necessary to get that job done, so if that means missing a big TNT doubleheader then so be it."
Lakers forward Pau Gasol said that the team realizes that this injury of Bryant's is different from the back, groin, elbow, finger and knee maladies that he played through earlier in the season.
"I'm guessing that this is a pretty serious deal," Gasol said. "It's nothing that you can push through because he's done that on many occasions."
Jackson thought that Bryant finally letting go of his perfect attendance record in Portland was the toughest part of the injury for his 12-time All-Star, but once Bryant accepted the fact that it was over, he was able to approach rehabilitation with his full attention.
"I think he liked having the fact that he had played consecutive games for  games," Jackson said. "Once you miss one, you can't really restart that really quickly and get back to that number without a whole lot of years put behind it, so I think it's reasonable that he did this."
Bryant's streak was the fifth longest streak among current NBA players. It started after March 7, 2007, when he served a one-game suspension for striking Marko Jaric in the face.
Bryant agreed with Jackson, saying that if he was going to miss one game, he was going to miss as many games necessary to make sure he is healthy for the home stretch.
"I'm not going to have it be in vain because then I'll just be pissed off I missed those games for no reason," Bryant said. "Plus, the team is playing so well, I'm in no rush to get back. That's something that they've told me: 'When you go down, we're going to make sure to step up and play. This way you don't feel like you have to rush to get back.' That's how we pick each other up."
Bryant seemed at ease with his decision, so long as it helps his team complete its goal of securing a second-consecutive championship come June.
"Hopefully this will be the end of it," Bryant said. "We'll get Luke [Walton] back [from his back injury], get myself back and hopefully we'll have a full roster for the remainder of the year ... This is getting close to money time here."Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.