Phil Jackson open to possibility that Kobe Bryant sits out Friday against Minnesota
Sure, there have been instances when Jackson has suggested that Bryant scale back his activities, has monitored his minutes heavily and has weighed in on when it might be appropriate for Bryant to sit out versus sharpening on-court chemistry with his teammates.
But Jackson believes Bryant understands his body well even when it appears he's pushing the envelope. The Lakers' practice Thursday proved to be one of those instances where Bryant sat out of practice entirely despite Jackson's hope that he'd be healthy enough at least to participate in shooting drills. As for whether it's appropriate for Bryant to sit out Friday against Minnesota remains to be seen, but it's something Jackson suggested might be necessary.
"It might be," Jackson said of Bryant, who didn't speak with reporters. "We'll just see how it is [Friday]. He says he's got good strength in his ankle. It's still swollen quite a bit, but he has a strength in it that he feels he can play."
After spraining his left ankle in the Lakers' 91-96 victory Saturday over the Dallas Mavericks late in the third quarter, Bryant briefly went to the locker room before returning to the court. He remained a game-time decision for Monday's game against the Orlando Magic. He went two of 10 in the first half and appeared hesitant in elevating his left leg so the land wouldn't be as painful, but his five of nine clip in the second half showcased a more aggressive effort.
"I should be fine," Bryant said after the Lakers' 97-84 victory Monday over the Orlando Magic.
If that's good enough to suit up against Minnesota remains to be seen, though it's very rare for Bryant to sit out. It has happened before, with Bryant missing five games because of a sprained left ankle and sitting out four of the last five games of the regular season in hopes his assorted left ankle, right index and right knee injuries improved for the postseason. Though Jackson said Bryant's absences last year showed "it finally caught up to him last year with all the multiple injuries he had," Jackson also pointed out that Bryant's willingness to sit out pointed to the Lakers securing a comfortable lead for first place in the Western Conference.
This season is a different story.
L.A. (48-20) is tied with the Dallas Mavericks (48-20) for second place in the Western Conference and is 6½ games behind the San Antonio Spurs (54-13). Though the Lakers have conceded that the Spurs will probably take the conference's top spot, they remain firm in wanting to hold home-court advantage over the Mavericks. Still, the Lakers have argued that team health remains the primary concern. Center Andrew Bynum said an unspecified amount of fluid still remains in his right knee and that's he's taking medication for it. Jackson hopes he can lower Derek Fisher's minutes (27.4 per game) during the Lakers' remaining 14 regular season games so the 15-year veteran is primed for playoff clutchness. And, of course, there's Bryant's injury.
"Hopefully we can go into the playoffs with energy and some live legs, in particular with his energy that he'll come back and be 100%," Jackson said of Bryant. "There's always residual things that come out of this that will manifest itself out later on, so we just want to be careful with it."
-- Mark Medina
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