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Pre-season question of the day: How will Kobe Bryant's right index finger fare in 2010-11?

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Hopefully, you're not eating breakfast just yet. And if you are, keep the milk and cereal away from the computer in case the above photo freaks you out.

Looks like Lakers guard Kobe Bryant's fingers are super bendable -- except for that bandaged digit, which is a familiar sight for Lakers fans. It's an injury that happened Dec. 11, 2009, in a meaningless regular-season game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, when Bryant received a poor entry pass from Jordan Farmar that ultimately resulted in an avulsion fracture to his right index finger. At the time, the team and Bryant proclaimed it wasn't anything serious. But the events that transpired soon suggested otherwise.

The pain continued to stay in his right index finger. Bryant constantly tinkered with his splint, trying to find the proper balance between protecting his finger and maintaining his ability to grip the ball. His shooting percentage suffered. And the original timetable for when the finger was expected to be fully healed went from six weeks, which Bryant managed to play through, to indefinite, with Bryant later developing arthritis in the knuckle of that right index finger during the postseason.

Bryant's feelings about the injury after the Lakers won the 2010 championship contrasted with his initial statement that "you just get used to it." When asked during his exit interview what injury hurt the most among his assorted dings during the 2009-10 season -- the fractured right index finger, the sprained left ankle, the swollen right knee, the periodic back spasms -- Bryant didn't hesitate with his response. "The finger," he said. "Once we drained the knee, it was fine. Fine enough. The finger though was a constant problem. It was always around."

With the Lakers 2 1/2 weeks away from training camp, Bryant's finger and how it fares is one of the most significant pre-season questions. It will likely determine how he'll play this season: Will his scoring mostly come from attacking the basket, from working the post or from penetrating from behind the perimeter? Will he mostly facilitate by punishing opponents who double team him, feeding Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum inside or creating more spacing for the Lakers' backcourt? Will his finger be something that could drastically affect his chances of capturing a regular-season MVP award? Or is all the worry about his finger soooooo last season?

There might be some answers coming Sept. 25, when, it's safe to presume, we'll ask what kind of treatment Bryant received this off-season for his finger.

For now, all we can say is this: Bryant spent this off-season playing very little basketball. He sat out the 2010 FIBA World Championships, ran his basketball camp, visited China, watched the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, attended the World Basketball Festival in New York City and even abstained from a pick-up game with President Obama. Bryant also received arthroscopic knee surgery and told reporters afterward that he felt good, a sentiment Lakers forward Luke Walton recently shared with Lakers.com's Mike Trudell after observing Bryant at work this off-season.

But not even the team is sure what Bryant's plan involving his right index finger entails.

"He continues to see doctors. I've not heard an update regarding a surgery," Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak told reporters in late July. "As the summer goes on, it’s less and less a possibility as you get closer and closer to training camp."

"Kobe's surgery was done by a physician other than a team physician," Kupchak continued. "That just brings you a little bit further away. After 14 years, we've come to trust Kobe and his medical decisions. We're very in the loop with the type of surgery he had as well as the results of the surgery. We don't worry about Kobe with rehab. He's rehabbing with one of our people right now. One of the people he's working with is one of our most trusted therapists. That's all I know. The surgery went well. It wasn't a major surgery. He's mobile. He's getting therapy every day. We expect him back in training camp."

Whether Bryant returns to training camp with a healthy finger is another story. After suffering the injury, Bryant fought through it and earned Western Conference Player of the Month honors in December. But he aggravated the injury in January, setting off a monthlong stretch when his volume of shots increased but his shooting percentage decreased. In February and March, Bryant played more of a facilitating role and scored through the post so he wouldn't be as susceptible to whacks to the finger. Soon enough, as arthritis developed in the knuckle, Bryant changed his shooting stroke with assistant coach Chuck Person to  transfer the pressure on his right index finger to his middle finger and thumb.

As far as the coming season, well, we don't know.  The Orange County Register's Kevin Ding  wrote this off-season: "The middle knuckle on that critical finger on Bryant’s shooting hand is so debilitated by arthritis after the past season of misuse and overuse that there may be no real way to fix it. Arthritis is not a problem that can just be cleaned up with arthroscopic surgery or wished away with a little rest."

As much as Bryant should be credited for shutting it down this summer, The Times' Mark Heisler noted that the team wished he had done that earlier in the season. As much as Bryant should be lauded for his toughness and resiliency, his stubbornness sometimes meant even more damage to his finger. So, it's an issue that will remain cloudy for some time and one that will surely leave Laker fans split on how Bryant should address it.

-- Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter: twitter.com/latmedina. E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com.

Photo: Bucks guard Carlos Delfino knocks the ball from the grasp of Lakers guard Kobe Bryant in the first half of a game Jan. 10, 2010. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

 
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Sounds like a concern, but there isn't much anyone can do, so we must move on.
I'm guessing it may cause some discomfort as the season goes on, but Kobe has a way with dealing with these kinds of things. I'm not worried. Maybe this will be another way of convincing Kobe to rest more during the regular season.

rdlee - You bring up an interesting point. We'll just have to wait and see. I remember at the time even the most vocal Kobe supporters expressed some frustration why he didn't rest as much as he could've during the regular season if the injury was so bad. So we'll see.

MM

I have the answer: TOUCHES FOR PAU GASOL. Pau become the nº 1 option in offense.

The real MVP 2010 (16) will be the next MVP 2011.

I think a balanced offense will help as Kobe will not need to carry the full load of the team on his shoulders..err finger.
I don't know if a surgical option is available like a knuckle replacement in the same style as a hip replacement or joint replacement. Probably not but would be way to go if there was such a thing.

You know - it is a dual star shining in L.A. Kobe and Pau. As per Ricky and his quest for Pau to win the MVP, I don't think that's possible, whereas Kobe could due to him fame - which leads me to . . . Question: with the team as it is now, would losing Pau or losing Kobe result in the biggest drop-off in wins?

That is another difference of today's Superstars, they have their own MD's, therapist, their own hospital plan but rely on the Lakers Medical Plan. I wonder when Wilt got his both hands injured whether he had his own doctors or trusted the LA doctors' recommendation. I believed at that time, the best hospital for any kind of sports injuries is Centinela Hospital. Today, players go to Colorado, New York or even Vancouver to get their injuries fixed. It is sort of rehab on a sight seeing tour or kinda multi tasking respite. Well, you can't blame them there specialist for every kind of ailment but they all depend on nature's cure. When things don't work out, they go back to the old reliable, Gary Vitti, the miracle trainer. He is supposed to know all the answers why they are not getting well.

This season will be very similar to the '87 campaign that resulted in a championship. Similar in the fact that Magic had officially usurped Kareem as the focal point of the offense. Worthy and Byron masked this fact by their rather effective scoring prowess, as Byron enjoyed one of his finest scoring efforts in his career. Worthy had blossomed, and Kareem took a couple of steps back... for the good of the team. Nevertheless, Magic spearheaded the offense, as he had the majority of the touches both as a facilitator and finisher (also illustrated by his high % of points accumulated at the stripe). The point being that Kobe may need to dial it down a notch in order for Pau to assume his new role as offensive focal point. Either way, the formula for success is there, and it is a proven one as well. The roster is very strong on paper, and now is the time to spread Kobe's minutes out a little bit, and hopefully extend his career by doing so.

http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/j/johnsma02/gamelog/1987/

http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/a/abdulka01/gamelog/1987/

DBDH!

Ricky,

Ouchhh is not posting his concerns but I just want to echo what he was saying before. Pau has some issues to settle, add a little weight and strength in his upper extremities so that he will not be pushed around by heavy power forwards. In the past, he was able to use softness to his advantage but sometimes it does fare well in the long run if he kept on being pushed around and fell so often. If you want him to be a MVP candidate, he should continue improving on his inherent weaknesses. Because other coaches will use his weakness as their strategy in toppling him down. Kobe did not become the Kobe the superstar overnight. He devoted time in improving himself, manufactured new style and always ahead of the curve for every season. Everybody in the Lakers line up have a work to do during the break, why? because they have an ambition for 3 peat. This the NBA, if you want to remain on the top, you continue improving as a team.

Hey Edwin Gueco.

Who´s Ouchchchch?????

No problem. Pau improve every year. He can play power forward and Center but he is really a legitimate power forward. Belive me, as power forward Pau is absolutly tough and soft as C. The next level is play as Small forward or maybe shooting forward (he can make long shots without problem) Also he can play point guard like in F.C. Barcelona first years.

To me, Pau Gasol should be the 1 option in offense b/c Kobe age and injuries. If Andrew Bynum can play all year without injuries in order to do the dirty job, this year Pau Gasol will be the next NBA MVP.

Bad news for my country. Spain loss in European Championship against Serbia. Bad luck. Without Pau and Calderon is not easy.

Not European Championship, World Championship

like you with different views on Euro players. Fine, that's his opinion. He is not all entirely correct but definitely there is also truth on what he is saying.

Well, as you said Spain lost again. It is nice of you to admit your own mortality being a Superpower in sports. I didn't know that you can also lose a game.

MM- Thanks for thorough recap of Kobe's finger "situation".

I think it will be an on-going concern and Kobe will be Kobe....meaning he'll continue to play through it. I don't expect Kobe to become more of a distributor. He is a scorer. That is his DNA. He's got his eye in passing MJ on the all-time scoring list. (Even if it cost the Lakers a couple of regular season games in the process.) He will continue to make adjustments to his stroke and continue to put the ball in the hole.

Sorry, the first sentence on my last post was erased, it should read.
"Ricky, if you have been posting long enough in this blog, then you know who Ouchhh is. Like you he has different views on Euro players."

This season will be very similar to the '87 campaign that resulted in a championship. Similar in the fact that Magic had officially usurped Kareem as the focal point of the offense. Worthy and Byron masked this fact by their rather effective scoring prowess, as Byron enjoyed one of his finest scoring efforts in his career. Worthy had blossomed, and Kareem took a couple of steps back... for the good of the team. Nevertheless, Magic spearheaded the offense, as he had the majority of the touches both as a facilitator and finisher (also illustrated by his high % of points accumulated at the stripe). The point being that Kobe may need to dial it down a notch in order for Pau to assume his new role as offensive focal point. Either way, the formula for success is there, and it is a proven one as well. The roster is very strong on paper, and now is the time to spread Kobe's minutes out a little bit, and hopefully extend his career by doing so.

Posted by: Don't Blame Del Harris! | September 08, 2010 at 09:51 AM

DBDH - The biggest difference between this 2011 and the 1987 season is the Lakers got spanked by the Rockets in 86 and needed to make a change because the offense was very stagnant. Throw the ball to Kareem and watch. The Laker won in 2010 with Kobe being aggressive and scoring.

I agree it would be more prudent for Kobe to shoot less and get Pau and AB get more touches. But I don't anticipate a change in Kobe's approach. And I can't blame him because the Lakers are coming off Back To Back titles. If Kobe's efficiency is down then he may alter his game. Otherwise it business as usual.

I suspect that Kobe's finger will bother him so much that he will literally cut it off with bolt cutters during halftime of a key match, wrap it up with duct tape, and then return for the rest of the game (which we'll win.)


Yep. It's coming.


What do we play for? RINGS!!!


Lakers Today... Lakers Tomorrow... Lakers Forever.

GO LAKERS!!!

Jon K; Your writing style but without the spacing - have you fixed your computer?

He still has 8 good ones left, doesn't he? He'll be fine.

Put this on the wish list for 2011.

Pau be more aggressive. Everyone wants Kobe to give him the ball more...and I agree...but also Pau needs to be more assertive with the touches he already gets. He needs to force the action more instead of kicking it back out to the perimeter after a couple of dribbles.

The older members of this blog know what Kobe is going through - getting up and going to work every day with broken body parts that can't be fixed.

Kobe's will to live will now carry his day - and that day should be as bright as the younger days - albeit more painful. Humans can sustain excellence in the face of pain - it sometimes makes one better due to focus.

Jon K - you're saying Kobe will pull a Ronnie Lott...I wouldn't be surprised...

Pau might win an MVP one day...but it won't be next season...

MM - that picture freaks me out...that pinkie looks like a pretzel...

Kobe is just 100% stud muffin...why he will be GLOAT before is is done DOIN WORK...

Never - Magic is the GLOAT and will always be. Why? Besides being a better player than Kobe, he is a great human - Kobe not necessarily.

This will catch me much flak. Bring it on - I won't respond but will read.

Edwin,

Spain is not a sports superpower. We are 40 mil. people and the last year we have luck (soccer, BB, tennis a ciclism....) but that is only luck. We have a good sportsmen generation (Nadal, good soccer players and others). But not, Spain is not a superpower in sports. For example, yesterday Spain lose vs. Angertinian 4-1 in soccer. My country is a little country around the world, my friend, and we can´t win every time in every sports.

Ricky;

Where in Spain are you from? I've been to Europe, never to Espana - I hear it's magnificent.

Kobe's probably got a contingency plan for the finger...
Just go lefty full time.
No problem.

Otis.

I´m from Barcelona, the same city of Pau Gasol (i can see Pau playing since his 14 year old in F.C. Barcelona) Spain (España) is a little but nice country. We have here in Barcelona nice beaches, mountains and good weather. Also we have good food (french cuisine influence obviously)

If you are from L.A., Barcelona and L.A. are very similars. L.A. is more big than Barcelona and with more population.

That pinky is painful to look at, kind of like when people get hit in the groin on America's Funniest Home Videos.

@ LRob,

Agreed. The spanking of '86 was the catalyst for the success of '87. The main common thread I was trying to evoke was the transfer of scoring responsibilities from the "main superstar" to the "secondary superstar". Kobe will inevitably need to listen to his body's demands, as his mind, will, talent, and body slowly drift away from each other. Business as usual sounds great to me, but a team evolution (not so much a change per say) is the polar opposite of stagnation... I hope they choose the correct path. I see Pau's ascension to greatness only a matter of time. The torch is going to shared for a while before it is actually passed. Thanks for a terrific response. Your insight is always welcomed, sir.

DBDH!

Sorry for the typos and word omissions. I'm off to lunch in a hurry!

DBDH!

the rings fit and will continute to......

GOOD TO SEE MM back to the alter with his disciples all basking in their beloved teacher's glory. Of course in his absence they were blithering i....., in coherent, ship without a rudder, a ship without a sail, feeling insecure but peace is now restored.

Add LakerTom aka BynumSwami and another "elder" on a wheel chair to the mix and viola you have the lakers blog.


Old Hippy - Hey what's with the little digs at everyone? I don't mind people mixing it up, but let's try to be nice.

MM

Edwin Gueco sup bro?

I had to comment on this guy....Man Ricky, your lost bro. This is Kobe's team and regardless Pau will always be Kobe's Robin (Not saying that he isnt a good player cause Pau is.
You just dont get what it means to have a bonfide alpha male on your team that teams have to almost triple team every night to attempt to slow down. Its a reason Pau is never doubled team. I love Gasol but dont ever discredit who's the engine of this team. 28ppg 5rebs 5asst in an injury plauged year????? let me know who else could play with 3 fingers on their shooting hand and bad knee and bad ankle and put up those numbers.

Man stop with the espn John Hollinger echoing..people that dont know a thing about Basketball

LRob - That's a good point that Kobe is a "scorer" by design. I don't think him being a facilitator means he's a different player. Kobe has an uncanny ability to make adjustments and read defenses/tendencies within a fraction of a second. That being said, if you think he will still remain more a scorer or a passer, how do you think his game will adjust? Will he become even more of a post player? Work more as a shooter?

MM

LEWSTRS - Hey you're right it does look like a pretzel. I'm sorry I cant' find the video, but I normally watch Tosh.O on Comedy Central and they recently showed a video of a kid jumping on a trampoline and he broke his leg. The leg was completely sideways and you could see the bone. Not exactly what you want to see when you're chowing down on cereal.

MM

wildone - Funny you pointed out that Kobe could just go left handed. You may recall that when Kobe initially suffered the injury, he decided to go left handed for most of the game. He joked that this would help the competition he and Pau were having last season on who would have the most left-handed layups. Perhaps they could bring that contest back?

MM

MM:

Call it just as I see it and you are no exception. While posters have called names to La Times staff and other media journalist. So my post is clean and don't be so sensitive. is little notoriety is getting to your head?

cheers!

Old Hippy - lol believe me. I don't have notoriety. I was asking more about this comment: "Add LakerTom aka BynumSwami and another "elder" on a wheel chair to the mix and viola you have the lakers blog." People here were criticizing media members but they weren't personal attacks. It was their opinion on the work they provided. I actually disagreed and thought the sports staff did a great job filling in while I was gone, and I made sure people knew that they all have a lot on their plate already.

Mark Medina:

LakerTom is my neighbor up north and never had any negative exchanges with him, ever!! For the record I enjoy his posts specific to Bynum. FYI, BynumSwami is not a derogatory word as a matter of fact only given to LT for he has reached nirvana and is currently in bodhisatva state when it relates to Bynum, serious!!

Old Hippy - Ok just wanted to make sure. Sorry for misinterpreting what you wrote.

MM

Welcome back MM

yes he will be fine.

I don't know how the team doctors could have let Kobe do this to his finger. I knew this and I'm not a doctor. I blogged back then that Kobe's finger would be a "mutated jumble of mess" if he continued playing on that torn up finger. That was just obvious. With repeated pain it means something somewhere will give eventually give, EVERYONE KNOWS THIS. Even Bynum playing on that knee for the playoffs is gonna be bad in the long run unless he did rest for days on end after feeling severe pain. Your body needs to repair. When we get sunburned we develop cancer cells but dimers constantly repair the damaged chromosomes with the proper ones and constantly renew damaged chromosomes by cuting and replacing. I'm pretty sure similar things occur with wear and tear. Look at kickboxers who don't know how to rest. Many get cancer in their shins. I can't lay all the blame on the doctors, Kobe is hard to say NO to.

Kobe will do what he's done the past two years: transition from primary shooter to running the floor. Of course he wants to remain the face of the franchise and leading scorer -- with talent like that, wouldn't anyone? But he knows his limits, and he's also pacing himself to stay in the game for at least three or four more seasons. You don't do that by trying to be "alpha male" all the time -- it's a question of pacing. Personally I don't care if Gasol or Bynum becomes the top scorer, the point is finding ways to win against the East. To do that, the question isn't the future of Kobe's finger -- ideally it won't get worse, realistically it won't get better. That means that the big guys need to toughen up, Bynum has to learn how to pass, and (most of all) they need a bench that can hold the fort for at least part of the middle two quarters. The second string is obviously capable of doing better, so maybe they aren't being well coached.

Pau Gasol will never be MVP, let's get real. He's not that young himself so it's not like he'll be in his prime when Kobe retires. Plus he's just not that dominate of a player. He is as good of a number two guy that we'll see in the NBA along with LeBron, but this is Kobe's team.

That being said, I hope Kobe's finger holds up this year. He was shooting such a high percentage last year before the injury and it sucks knowing that he could have put together a really efficient year. But hopefully the rest will be very helpful for him.

This article has some great points but, COME ON !! its Kobe Bryant we talking about.. i have no concern at all...he won a championship with a broken finger.. im sure these few months have helped his finger at least 1% healthier thats 1% better than last year when he won a championship..

The bad finger will cost him MVP and many other scoring milestones in his career that could have been. I believe he could have been GOAT, but for the finger and injuries to come. I still relish every opportunity to see him albeit NBA League Pass is my only option ( Tried to see him at Pepsi Center but that was the game he decided to shut it down with me having seat 20' from the floor!)


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