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Ankle forces Lakers star to miss 13 games so far

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Although Kobe Bryant doesn't have a
timetable for playing again for the Los Angeles Lakers, he intends
to appear in the NBA All-Star game if his severely sprained right
ankle is healed.

"The important thing is to be healthy," Bryant said Wednesday
evening before the Lakers played the New Jersey Nets. "I am not
going to feel obligated to play because it's the All-Star game.

"The most important thing is helping us win ball games. If my
ankle is ready to go, I'll play."

The game is scheduled for Feb. 20 in Denver.

Bryant, the NBA's second-leading scorer with a 27.5 average,
missed his 13th straight game Wednesday night. The eight-year
veteran was injured against Cleveland on Jan. 13.

When he was placed on the injured list Jan. 15, it was expected
Bryant would be sidelined for three to six weeks.

The perennial All-Star guard worked out hard with the Lakers on
Tuesday, but said he was sore Wednesday.

"There has been consistent soreness in the past two or three
days," Bryant said. "I want to shut down doing things on my feet,
actively moving around, and hope not to irritate anything."

Bryant said he would like to play on the Lakers' current
five-game road trip, which still includes games at Detroit on
Thursday night and Cleveland on Sunday afternoon. Los Angeles will
play Utah at home on Tuesday night before starting the All-Star
break.

"Now we need help from Mother Nature," Bryant said. "We have
done everything we could. Now it has to heal up for us.

Watching the Lakers struggle in recent weeks hasn't been easy
for Bryant. The team has developed a tendency to fall behind early.

"I don't know what it is about us, whether we feel we have to
get down 20, 30 points, and we have them exactly where we want
them," Bryant said. "When the ball goes up, we have to be ready
to play and jump on them now."