Kobe Bryant not bothered by ankle
Lakers Shine Despite Kobe's Off Night
A slump by an NBA team's superstar can wreck its playoff hopes. But the Lakers are surging despite Kobe Bryant's recent struggles, and Andrew Bynum's play is the reason why, writes J.A. Adande. Story
Two days later he was back on the court, playing 31 minutes in the Lakers' 97-84 win against the Orlando Magic.
How did he do it?
"The swelling went down 60-70 percent each day," Bryant said after recording 16 points, five rebounds and four assists in the win, the Lakers' 10th in 11 games since the All-Star break. "It was crazy. So, I felt good enough to go."
Bryant originally described the swelling surrounding his ankle to be the size of a baseball on Saturday and at Monday's shootaround, Lakers coach Phil Jackson said Bryant's ankle had improved so much it was down to the size of a squash ball. Bryant corrected the ball comparison after the Orlando game, saying the swelling went from the size of a softball, to a baseball, to a lacrosse ball to a golf ball.
Jackson had his own theory as to why Bryant was able to pull off such a quick comeback, calling Bryant, "a very flexible person which gives him the ability to recover from injuries like that."
Bryant said the injury did not cause him any pain, but it seemed to affect him in the early going Monday as he shot just 2-of-10 in the first half.
"It affected my balance just from the trust factor, to trust the ankle, in the first half," Bryant said. "Then at halftime I just kind of had to give myself a little pep talk, stop acting like a wuss and go out there and play and shoot my shots.
"It was more mental, still kind of being unsure because I hadn't really tested it out."
Jackson did not seem too concerned with Bryant's 7-of-19 shooting line that followed his 6-for-20 output against Dallas.
"It was all right," Jackson said. "I think he was trying to find his way out there. He was aggressive and he wanted to attack ... I thought he did a good job defensively at times for us out there. He helped on the boards, got a steal inside, some of the things that are really necessary for us to play well. Offensively, he'll have to find it another day."
Bryant made several defensive plays in the second half, picking up a steal, drawing an offensive foul on Jameer Nelson and pressuring Jason Richardson into losing the ball out of bounds on one possession. Bryant was animated as he celebrated the stops, pumping his fist in one instance and smacking his own head in another.
"We talked about doing things defensively," Bryant said. "It's just getting in the passing lane and being excited about doing it."
Bryant headed straight to the locker room for treatment on the ankle when he subbed out for good with 3:37 remaining in the fourth quarter Monday, but said, "I should be fine" when asked if the ankle will affect him Friday against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He has played in all 68 of the Lakers' games this season.
The Lakers have four days before the Wolves game and will take the day off Tuesday.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.