Bryant sidelined 2-3 weeks

Updated: January 15, 2004, 11:16 AM ET
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Lakers star Kobe Bryant expressed relief Wednesday night that his injured right shoulder is a sprain instead of something more serious.

Bryant, the NBA's seventh-leading scorer with a 22-point average, was placed on the injured list earlier in the day and is expected to be sidelined at least two-to-three weeks.

He was injured Monday night with 5.7 seconds left in the first quarter when he faked Cleveland's Kedrick Brown into the air outside the 3-point line and Brown landed on his shoulder.

"I thought it was worse," Bryant said in his first public comments since being injured. "When he came down on it, I felt it snap and pop and all that, so I thought it was worse. I thought it was really bad.

"Considering all the circumstances, I'd much rather have this injury than what I thought I had. I thought it was out of the socket, that my arm was going to drop, I thought I was done. It felt bad, it sounded bad.

"So I was kind of relieved. It felt totally different from the one last spring."

Bryant injured his shoulder in a failed dunk attempt against Minnesota in the first round of the playoffs and underwent surgery June 12, four weeks after the Lakers were eliminated by San Antonio in the second round. He had an inflamed bursa removed and a frayed labrum trimmed.

"If somebody's going to land on top of your shoulder like that, there's nothing you can do about it," Bryant said before the Lakers faced the Denver Nuggets. "That made it worse. I was exploding up and he was coming down.

"It was just one of those things. I've never had this injury before, so I really don't know too much about this area. I'm kind of learning as I go and trying to educate myself better on my injury."

In obvious pain after the foul, Bryant made three free throws, but left after the first period ended and went to the locker room for X-rays.

He played a little more than five minutes in the second quarter, but was clearly not himself, running with his right arm hanging at his side.

The Lakers replaced Bryant on their roster by signing guard Ime Udoka to a 10-day contract. He was with the Lakers through training camp and played in six preseason games, averaging 3.7 points, 1.3 rebounds and 0.7 assists in 8.8 minutes.

Udoka has been playing with the NBDL's Charleston Lowgators, where he averaged 14.7 points and 6.9 rebounds. The Lakers have recently been without Shaquille O'Neal and Karl Malone because of injuries. The healthy members of their backcourt are Gary Payton, Derek Fisher and Kareem Rush.

Neither O'Neal nor Malone played against the Nuggets, and it's uncertain when they will return to action.

O'Neal strained his right calf Jan. 4 and has missed six games, while Malone sprained a ligament in his right knee Dec. 21 and has sat out 10 games.

Horace Grant, who has been starting in O'Neal's place, will leave the team Thursday to be with his ailing father in Georgia.

"It could be a few days, it could be a week, I want to get everything situated there with my dad and make sure he has the proper care around him," Grant said. "He's got a severe case of the gout, and we don't where the losing weight comes from. He's at about 140-145 pounds. We'll know something by Thursday.

"It's been pretty tough (to focus on basketball). But this is like a sanctuary, were you try to get your mind off of what's really going on in life with your family and everything. But it's been tough, very tough.month."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press