Kobe Bryant unlikely to play Thursday
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The good news is Kobe Bryant's preseason shooting percentage, a dreary 27.3 percent (18 for 66), likely won't dip any lower Thursday when the Los Angeles Lakers play the Golden State Warriors in San Diego.
The bad news is the reason his percentage will stay stagnant is because Bryant is unlikely to play.
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"I think that Thursday's very possible he would not play," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
The 15-year veteran is officially listed as questionable, according to the team. Bryant has played sparingly through six preseason games thus far, averaging just 19.5 minutes as he recovers from offseason surgery on his right knee, his third procedure on the knee since 2003.
Once the regular season tips off Tuesday against the Houston Rockets, Bryant's minutes will not suddenly increase dramatically.
"I don't anticipate he's going to be playing heavy-minute games to start this season," Jackson said. "So, we'll have to find a pattern out there so he has the greatest influence in the amount of minutes he gets."
Jackson said he doesn't have a specific minute limitation in mind for the regular season, abandoning the practice of putting anything like a 16 to 18 minute range on Bryant's playing time as he did at the start of the preseason.
"It may vary from game to game," Jackson said. "Back to back, our second and third games to start the season, I think there will be a difference between Game 3 and Game 2, obviously."
While the strength of Bryant's knee continues to be monitored by the team, the accuracy of Bryant's shot is not as alarming as his low shooting percentage would suggest.
"I'm not that concerned about his shot as I am about just having an overall ability to play with the kind of energy that he wants to play with," Jackson said. "His shot will come as soon as that happens. He's the best caretaker I've ever seen of his own personal physique so I anticipate he's got this measured as to how he wants to do it."
Or, as Bryant put it after the Lakers' 102-95 win over the Denver Nuggets last Saturday: "I feel silly even talking about shooting percentage, it's the damn preseason."
Ron Artest has picked up the slack while Bryant's shot has gone awry, upping his field goal percentage to 47.2 percent (up from 41.4 percent last season) and his 3-point percentage to 42.1 percent (up from 35.5 percent).
"I just think the rhythm of his game and also the cement shoes he's not wearing," Jackson said. "He's got those two things down."
Artest is a free agent on the sneaker market, but has been testing out a new low top shoe by an emerging company during the preseason.
With Bryant out, the Lakers will welcome back to the lineup two reserves in Sasha Vujacic and Luke Walton. Vujacic has been sidelined since last Thursday with a concussion while Walton has yet to appear in a preseason game after straining his right hamstring when the team was in London at the start of training camp.
Both players participated in a full practice Wednesday.
"Go home in front of the home fans," said Walton, who played his prep ball at University of San Diego High School. "Throw that new jersey on for the first time."
In other injury news, rookie forward Derrick Caracter is questionable after suffering back spasms against Utah on Tuesday.
"Probably another day or two," Caracter said.Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.