Kobe Bryant to play Monday
LONDON -- Kobe Bryant continues to wade into the new NBA season, rather than dive in head-first. The Los Angeles Lakers guard did not practice Sunday, opting to rest and ice his right knee that was surgically repaired in July.
It was the third time the knee has been operated on.
Although Bryant participated in two of the Lakers' initial 10 practice sessions to open training camp, Los Angeles head coach Phil Jackson plans to play Bryant in two eight-minute stretches in the first half of Monday's preseason game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at London's O2 Arena.
"We're just going to run the guys eight minutes and see how their conditioning is in the most basic form," Jackson said. "We'll have some basic operational skills for the guys to work with. Nothing too tricky. Nothing too advanced. We'll have units play together, so we'll have mass substitutions, and then play the second half and see how it comes."
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Bryant said he relishes the opportunity to promote the game of basketball to a new fan base, but is keeping the exhibition game in the proper perspective.
"It's basically just a public practice, that's actually what it is," Bryant said. "It's a public scrimmage and you get a chance to work on a myriad of things."
Bryant will play in the season opener on Oct. 26 but will likely need an additional two weeks beyond then to get back to full strength, Jackson told the Los Angeles Times on Sunday.
While the Lakers will have Bryant for the first game of their preseason schedule, they will be without Andrew Bynum, who continues to recover from offseason knee surgery of his own. Bynum is expected to miss the first two to three weeks of the season, but on Sunday he said he could be out until December.
"Yeah, it's a possibility," he told the L.A. Times. "I've got a little bit of pain still. It just depends on when I'm cleared."
"He's been saying that," Jackson told the L.A. Times. "I don't know why he's talking about December. He can get weight-bearing activities started at the end of this month. Can you play in two weeks [after that]? Can you play in three weeks? Four weeks puts you at the end of November. So let's just let it happen and not talk about what the timing is."
"Right now he's going to have to carry the team while Kobe's not functioning at 100 percent," Jackson said of Gasol. "He's the guy who's going to have to have a leadership role."
The Lakers will also be without Luke Walton on Monday. Walton reinjured the hamstring he strained earlier in the week, which caused him to miss Friday's practice. He will not play in either of the two preseason games in Europe and will be re-evaluated next week when the team returns to the United States.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.