Bryant's agent later informed the Lakers that Bryant would join
them in Orlando, the fifth stop of the Lakers' seven-game road
In Cleveland a day earlier, coach Phil Jackson originally said
Bryant would join the team in Orlando -- in part to spare him from
being the target of taunts from fans in Philadelphia.
But Jackson later changed his mind and said Bryant, on the
injured list with a lacerated index finger, would join the Lakers
Jackson said Bryant was supposed to be on a plane from Los
Angeles that was to arrive between 4 and 5 p.m, but no one on the
Lakers had heard from him by the time Jackson addressed reporters
at 6 p.m. -- 90 minutes before tipoff.
"It's good for him to be with us here. He can have a couple
days to be with us in this situation, join his teammates, see how
we're playing, see firsthand what we're going through right now as
far as the way we're playing the game," Jackson said. "He's
supportive, and his teammates are supportive of him, so it's kind
of a catch-up point."
Bryant, who attended high school in a local suburb, has been the
target of boos and taunts in Philadelphia since the Lakers and
76ers met in the 2001 NBA Finals. The booing was worst during the
2002 All-Star game when Bryant was named the MVP of that game.
"I think being booed is the ultimate sign of respect," said
teammate Shaquille O'Neal, who quizzed reporters on whether Bryant
had shown up.