Kobe to miss final two games
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Kobe Bryant, who sat out two games last week to rest his legs and alleviate swelling in his right knee before returning to play in the Lakers' 91-88 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday, will not play in the Lakers' final two games of the regular season because of the avulsion fracture in his right index finger, a team spokesman announced Monday.
More on the Lakers
For more news and notes on the Lakers, check out the Land O' Lakers blog from the Kamenetzky brothers. Blog
After the Portland game Bryant told reporters he planned on playing in Los Angeles' last two games this week to "sharpen up" -- Tuesday against Sacramento and Wednesday against the Clippers -- but the 12-time All-Star changed his mind Sunday night, relaying in a text message to head coach Phil Jackson that he "probably shouldn't play the last two games the way he felt," Jackson said.
Bryant fractured the finger on Dec. 11 in a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves and has played in 52 of the 59 Lakers games since then with various splints and taping methods covering the finger. The games he missed were because of a sprained left ankle and tendon in February and a swollen right knee on the team's most recent road trip through Denver and Minnesota. This is the first time he will miss game action specifically because of the injured finger.
Bryant has also played through a strained right elbow, lower back spasms and a strained groin at various points of the season.
"I just think it's an accumulation of things," Jackson said. "Yeah, I guess you can call him a little bit worn down from the season. It's maybe two-three years of playing in long-term basketball [seasons] too."
Bryant ticked past the vaunted 1,000 career-games plateau this season and has played 44 playoff games over the course of the past two postseasons, in addition to his service to USA Basketball in the 2007 FIBA Americas championship in Las Vegas and the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
He ended his consecutive games played streak of 235, the fifth longest among current NBA players at the time, because of his left ankle injury, missing five games plus the NBA All-Star Game at Cowboys Stadium, a spectacle played in front of the largest crowd ever to witness a basketball game.
"Obviously there are some extenuating circumstances there physically that he thinks he can help out and I gave him the liberty to make that choice [to sit out]," Jackson said.
Before Bryant injured his finger he was shooting a career-best 49.3 percent from the field. His field goal percentage has dipped to 45.6 percent on the season since playing with the injury, right on par with his 45.5 percent average in his 14-year career.
Jackson credits the lack of accuracy to Bryant's execution as well as his physical condition.
"A lot of it I think was Kobe's choices of shots," Jackson said, specifically referring to his guard's 8-for-23 shooting total Sunday, stretching Bryant's three-game shooting slump to a dismal 21-for-70 (30 percent). "He's taken some tougher than natural or normal type of shooting chances and I think that's contributed to his poor shooting."
With the regular season coming to a close Wednesday and the Lakers expected to open up postseason play Sunday, April 18, at home at Staples Center, Jackson anticipates there will be ample time for Bryant to return to form before the playoffs begin.
"Certainly I'm concerned about it; I'm not worried about it that much," Jackson said. "We'll have harder practices, we'll have practice time. Obviously there should be two or three days between our end game and the start of the playoffs, so I think he'll find a rhythm."
Derek Fisher, a teammate of Bryant's for the bulk of the former league MVP's career since joining the Lakers as rookies together back in 1996, echoed his coach's sentiments.
"[Bryant] actually looked better than I thought he could look [Sunday]," Fisher said. "It's very difficult to go from not really physically being able to practice or really do things that you want to do and as much preparation as you want to put in and then go in the game and do some of the things he was able to do [Sunday]. I'm not really concerned about him having a full week, basically, to get himself physically ready to go, really recharge his batteries and be ready to lead our team. That's just not a concern of mine. I think he'll be ready to go."
The Lakers are 5-2 this season without Bryant.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.