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Lakers maintain optimism about playing status of Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum

March 19, 2011 |  2:16 pm


An official word is far from definitive. But the Lakers enter Sunday's game against the Portland Trail Blazers expecting both Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum will suit up.

Bryant sat out of practice Saturday in favor of treatment for his sprained left ankle and a stiff neck after he accidentally knocked heads with Minnesota's Martell Webster late in the fourth quarter of the Lakers' 106-98 victory Friday over the Timberwolves. Despite Phil Jackson's revelation after the game that he would talk to Bryant about whether he would scale back his minutes or even ask him to sit, Jackson conceded after Saturday's practice he didn't address Bryant's playing status against Portland and that it remains a game-time decision.

"He's doing OK today," Jackson said of Bryant, who observed the Lakers' defensive schemes in practice. "He has a stiff neck. Obviously he's working with a stiff ankle."

Bynum's playing status also remains in question, although it has little to do with anything surrounding his surgically repaired right knee. The NBA hasn't contacted the Lakers about whether Bynum's flagrant foul, type 2 on Minnesota forward Michael Beasley will earn him a suspension. Since they haven't been told otherwise, the Lakers are assuming Bynum won't face consequences for leveling Beasley with his right forearm with 6:16 remaining.

"Either they go home or else they'll give us a call," Jackson said.

Neither Bryant nor Bynum spoke with reporters afterward, so it was up to their teammates to fill in the details.

"He's all right," Lakers forward Ron Artest said of Bryant. "He's not going to complain about nothing. He ain't complaining. He's a warrior."

"It takes a lot for him not to play," Lakers forward Lamar Odom echoed. "He treats his body good. He stayed off of it for most of the practice. It'll take a lot for him not to play."

Although Bryant's health remains the primary concern, there was one development regarding the health of backup center Theo Ratliff, who has appeared in only eight games before having arthroscopic surgery. He participated in two practices this week, including one on Saturday, and Jackson wants him to have a full week of practice before determining his playing status.

Meanwhile, the Lakers reiterated their stance that Bynum's foul on Beasley wasn't a big deal.

"It's a part of the game," Artest said. "That's why you have rules. If they didn't have rules, they'd have to worry about suspensions. But guys play hard and play passionate. It's part of the game."

"We make too much of hard fouls because we're not used to seeing them," Odom said. "Ten or 15 years ago we saw that in every game. Instant replay makes it a little worse. They slow it down."

-- Mark Medina

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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.