Kobe Bryant says he'll play Sunday against Portland despite numerous injuries
Kobe Bryant wore frustrated looks and painful expressions. He provided terse answers. And he spent an hour in the trainer's room after the Lakers' 106-98 victory Friday over the Minnesota Timberwolves for treatment of assorted aches and pains, including injuries to his left ankle, neck and jaw.
If the body language didn't reveal how angry he was, Bryant's words surely did. Toward the end of a two-minute interview with reporters, he laid out in explicit terms that he's upset.
"Don't worry about it," Bryant said when asked what's bothering him the most. "I'll be ready to go on Sunday, period."
That's when the Lakers play the Portland Trail Blazers (39-29), who could be a possible first-round playoff opponent. The Lakers (49-20) currently own a one-game lead over Dallas (48-21) for second place in the West while the Trail Blazers are tied for sixth with New Orleans (40-30). Bryant hopes he'll need only a day to relieve all the anger and pain sustained during the Lakers' win over Minnesota.
There are plenty of items. He shot six for 17 while playing with a sprained left ankle, a performance Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said was "not respectable." Jackson said Bryant's timing was off, while Bryant conceded he was "a little stiff" but that "it feels all right." And he missed the first 5:32 of the second half, with Jackson joking that "Kobe was detained" and Bryant saying he needed extra time to stretch his sprained ankle.
Then there was his neck. Bryant got hit in the head accidentally while challenging Martell Webster's shot with 5:57 left in the fourth quarter, causing Bryant to lie on the court in pain.
"It was in the jaw," said Bryant, who added the Lakers' training staff hasn't indicated whether he'll need further treatment or tests. "My jaw is fine. I didn't take a hit. My neck snapped back. It's pretty stiff right now."
That was evident when Bryant barely moved during his postgame interview. Outside the locker room, Bryant maintained a friendly demeanor while posing for a photo with a fan. But he had trouble moving his head there, too. Jackson has largely been deferential to Bryant this season over how often he practices as he treats his surgically repaired right knee. Jackson also let Bryant decide whether he'd play in the Lakers' games against Orlando and Minnesota this week after spraining his left ankle Saturday against Dallas. But Jackson suggested he might change his approach moving forward.
"We'll talk about it tomorrow," Jackson said. "I'm sure he's going to say no. But we'll definitely talk about it and see how he's doing and if there's anything that's bothering him about [Friday night's] game."
There were plenty of things to bother Bryant, but he made it clear they wouldn't affect his playing status.
"I'll be ready for sure," said Bryant, who has shot only 40.4% through seven games in March. "I promise you that. I'm more than ready."
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Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, right, tries to get around Minnesota forward Kevin Love during the first half of the Lakers' 106-98 victory Friday at Staples Center. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times