Injured Bryant will play in Sunday's NBA All-Star Game
Wearing a black brace on his injured hand, Bryant sat out the Western Conference's light practice Saturday.
While his teammates broke a sweat doing some half-speed drills and shooting during a 25-minute workout, Bryant stayed on the bench. At the end of practice, he heaved up one shot -- with his left hand.
During media availability, Bryant said he would start for the West squad but didn't expect to play much. He understands the importance of not risking an injury that could prevent him from helping the Lakers in the second half of the season.
"I have an obligation to the organization to get ready to play," he said.
Bryant also knows he could make the injury worse.
"It's always a concern," he said. "If I dislocate it again, I'll have some issues, so I just have to be very careful about it."
Bryant might play only a few minutes before he takes a seat, something he is not looking forward to.
"I'm OK with doing whatever I need to do," he said. "I love playing in these games, so the fact that I'm hurt bums me out. I enjoy competing on this stage with the best players in the world. I wish I wasn't injured."
Bryant played Wednesday night at the Minnesota Timberwolves, then returned to Los Angeles, where he was diagnosed with the torn ligament. He declined the doctor's recommendation of surgery, even though he said Lakers owner Jerry Buss encouraged the option to prevent a longer-lasting injury."It doesn't seem to me to make sense," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said of Bryant being required to play, according to the Los Angeles Times. "I understand it's the biggest showcase of the year for the NBA and that's all of us. But from a general manager's point of view, looking out for the interests of our club, to me it doesn't make sense. "The doctor examining [Bryant] said, 'If you're not going to have surgery, give it time to heal,'" Kupchak said, according to the Times. "Five or six days of healing are certainly better than two or three." New Orleans Hornets coach Byron Scott, who once was Bryant's teammate with the Lakers, is coaching the West All-Stars. He said he will play Kobe as long as Kobe wants to play. "The last thing I want to do is make the injury worse," Scott said, according to the Times. "I don't want to put him in any jeopardy. If he says, 'Give me a minute out there and take me out,' that's what I'm going to do." The Lakers aren't the only ones holding their breath over Bryant's injury. USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said coach Mike Krzyzewski called him when he heard the news, which could be damaging to the Americans' gold-medal hopes. "I'm pulling for Kobe, and I want him healthy because I want him in our uniform this summer," Colangelo said. Bryant, who had to withdraw from U.S. teams in 2003, '04 and '06 before finally making his debut last summer, said he will play in the Olympics. "I'm not missing this summer," he said. "Unless something drastic happens, God forbid. I've been waiting to play on this team for too long." Bryant, who won his second All-Star Game MVP award last year, is among the NBA's fiercest competitors. But don't expect to see him asking Scott to put him in at the end if Sunday's game is close. "In my youth, yeah," he said. "In my old age of 29, no." ESPN's J.A. Adande and The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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