Kobe bristles at recovery time, opts to not have surgery

Updated: September 10, 2008, 5:02 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

LOS ANGELES -- Reigning NBA MVP Kobe Bryant will not have surgery on his right pinkie because recovery would take too long.

Bryant has played with damaged ligaments in the finger since February, but said Tuesday that he won't have surgery after seeking opinions from hand specialists.

"When the doctors told me recovery from a procedure could be 12 weeks, I just decided now was not the time to have surgery," Bryant said on the Web site kb24.com. "What it really came down to for me is that I just didn't want to miss any time 'punching the clock' for the Lakers, given all we are trying to accomplish as a team this NBA season."

Bryant averaged 28.3 points while playing in all 82 games despite injuring the finger Feb. 5 against the New Jersey Nets. The Lakers guard put off the surgery until after the Beijing Olympics, where he helped lead the United States to the gold medal.

"My understanding is he had two options: He could get it repaired or he could not get it repaired," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak told ESPN.com's J.A. Adande. "I think he's proven that he can play for long periods of time with the finger as it is. He did it from February through the middle of June. Then he did it all summer.

"We're not concerned it's anymore susceptible to injury. It was a personal decision. My understanding is it can be repaired at a later date. Maybe that's something he'll do for life beyond basketball. It was a personal decision that we support."

The Lakers were prepared for Bryant to miss training camp and some -- if not all -- of the eight-game exhibition season if he had the surgery. His availability does not necessarily mean he will go all-out from the moment the Lakers convene at the end of the month.

Coach Phil Jackson gave a lighter workload to Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen when they returned to the Chicago Bulls from the original Dream Team Olympic squad in 1992, and Bryant and Pau Gasol, who played for Spain this summer, can expect similar treatment.

"I'm not sure Phil would have put the same demands on Kobe and Pau Gasol that he would have had they not played in the Olympics," Kupchak said. "It's not realistic to ask them to go through a full training camp."

The Lakers open training camp Sept. 27 and start the regular season at home against the Portland Trail Blazers on Oct. 28.

The Associated Press and ESPN.com senior writer J.A. Adande contributed to this report.

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