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Kobe Bryant's performance in Lakers' 106-90 Game 5 victory over New Orleans Hornets provides interesting twist to health concerns

61174138With one drive, Kobe Bryant assuaged all fears about his left ankle and foot.

With one hop off his right foot, Bryant told the doctors he didn’t need crutches.

And with one electrifying dunk over Hornets center Emeka Okafor that prompted him to roar, the Lakers bench to rise and the 19,091 at Staples Center to cheer, Bryant provided a diagnosis that no MRI or X-ray could ever reveal.

Injuries and basketball mileage may eventually win in the never-ending fight to remain on top of his game, but no way will he easily cede that throne to a sprained left ankle and foot. The latest example involves Bryant leading the Lakers to a 106-90 Game 5 victory Tuesday over the New Orleans Hornets and dropping 19 points on eight-of-13 shooting in the process.

A sprained left ankle and foot will only make him more resilient. Having to spend the past two days getting what he called "around the clock" and "non stop" treatment on what he called a "stiff" left ankle and foot will only make him stronger. And having to walk to the team bus on crutches following the Lakers' Game 4 loss Sunday to New Orleans will only make him more determined never to have to use them again.

Bryant epitomized that mindset when he received a pass from Lakers forward Pau Gasol at the top of the key, drove through an opening in the lane and powered with a one-handed slam over Okafor. The significance went beyond cutting the Hornets' lead to 44-42 with 3:33 remaining in the second quarter and proving he still has the athleticism he displayed more often wearing the No. 8 jersey, or as Shannon Brown put it, "It looked like he had his Afro back." The play helped set a tone for a game that ultimately gave the Lakers a 3-2 series lead and a chance to close out Thursday at New Orleans.

"I just had a lane to the basket," Bryant said as he sat on a podium in a postgame press conference, a welcome sight considering he spent the conclusion of the Lakers' Game 4 loss to New Orleans Sunday talking to reporters in the training room. "It looked like [Okafor] was going to challenge me at the rim. I accepted the challenge. It’s a message for us that this is important and we have to raise our game up and do what I do. They know I save those and don’t have much of those left."

Bryant actually had more than just one dunk left. Fast forward to the third quarter where he caught a dump pass from Lakers center Andrew Bynum, drove right past Hornets forward Trevor Ariza, switched to his left hand as he went into the lane and stuffed it home over Hornets forward Carl Landry, giving the Lakers a 65-55 lead with 8:22 left in the third period. Bryant also had more brilliant plays left. He pulled up for a runner in the lane that cut tied the game at 44-44 with three minutes left in the second quarter. He also made a fallaway jumper that increased the Lakers' lead to 71-64 with 5:03 remaining. 

These weren't just highlight-reel plays. Bryant's dunk over Okafor served as part of a 16-10 run en route to a 54-51 hafltime lead that featured him scoring 10 of his 12 second-quarter points in the final 3:50. Bryant's dunk over Landry featured an 11-5 run to open the third quarter that featured Derek Fisher's clutch shooting, Bynum's aggressiveness in the post and Artest's consistently strong mark from the field. And that intensity carried over to the Lakers'  22-2 advantage in second chance points, a category Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said "won the game," Gasol roaring after converting on a hook shot and the team's second unit featuring a combined 28 points.

"We all have to step up and play regardless of whether Kobe is limited or not," said Gasol, who posted 16 points on six-of-12 shooting and eight rebounds and appeared much more aggressive. "He didn’t look at all limited tonight. He played really well. His value and effort and will to play helped us." 

It was only one day ago where the Lakers faced uncertainty on the severity of Bryant's injury. Despite insistence from the Lakers' training staff, Bryant refused to take an X-ray or MRI, arguing in a spirited defense that it was frankly a waste of time.

"I was moving okay and didn’t feel like it was broke or anything like that," he said. "If it was, it wouldn’t matter anyway. I’d play anyway. It’d be a waste of time to go all the way up there and do that and sit in 405 traffic for two hours. I don’t know why you guys are so concerned about the MRI. It’s not like we’d tell you the results anyway."

Fair point, but despite Jackson's deference to Bryant that "he knows his body that well," even he thought it'd be a good idea to take the exam. I had argued that Bryant should've taken the tests simply from the viewpoint that it'd give him an extra layer of information on how he may need to adjust his game and off-court treatment and out of respect for making the Lakers' training staff's job easier. I stand corrected to that viewpoint as Bryant can now joke he's doubtful" for Game 6 after playing 28 minutes because this remains an ongoing development on how his ankle and feet respond in practice Wednesday and when the team flies to New Orleans, a point Jackson and Fisher also conceded. With the assumption Bryant would receive around the clock treatment and play in Game 5 no matter what, I also stand corrected in believing he'd be more limited than he displayed. The images of Bryant wincing in pain in the final minutes of the Lakers' Game 4 loss to New Orleans and the photos of him walking to the team bus on crutches couldn't escape me. But a lot had happened since that time.

"He’s a hell of an athlete," said Lakers forward Ron Artest, who scored 11 points on four-of-eight shooting. "It’s not that bad of an injury, his athletic ability will take over. Trainers did a good job of treating him. He was ready. If he would’ve slacked off on the treatment, he probably wouldn’t have been ready. But he was getting treated every minute."

Fisher, who's known Bryant since playing together as rookies in 1996, recalled he and Bryant poking fun at all the surrounding hoopla, walking in a Staples Center hallway prior to the game where Fisher pretended to appear what he called "old and decrepit" so that the TNT cameras would focus less on Bryant. The kicker: It didn't work. 

But Bryant's situation was far from light hearted. He spent a four-hour overnight flight from New Orleans to Los Angeles icing his ankle and foot, receiving massage therapy and electronic stimulation, an injury so daunting that he did nothing more than handle a basketball during the team's morning shootaround. 

The limitation initially showed as he scored 0 first-quarter points, allowed Ariza to score 10 points on four-of-four shooting and prompting Jackson to joke Bryant was being a "liability," a remark Bryant said just points to Jackson wanting to joke around with him and the media. But it was only a matter of time and rhythm where everyone would see what Bryant could truly do.

"He was trying to be patient with himself physically and also continue to get a feel for how they’re defending him and where he can attack," said Fisher, who scored 13 points on five-of-six shooting. "He was very efficient and played a very smart game and I think we fed off of that more than anything. We fed off how smart he played and how efficient he was. He was really good with his decision making as far as when to attack and when to get off the ball." 

The fact he did that with a sprained ankle and foot didn't leave Fisher surprised, nor most of the general public. This is, after all, what Bryant does. But as he showed in that leaping dunk against Okafor, Bryant still manages to overcome the increasing injuries that continue to pile, while continuing to leave everyone in awe.

"It felt all right," said Bryant in typical understatement. "It’s the beauty of modern medicine."

--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant goes up for a dunk against the Hornets in the first half of Game 5 on Tuesday night at Staples Center. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times / April 26, 2011

 
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Kobe's a tough guy. But he's overrated. D.Rose is better.

D.Rose is good but not better than Kobe.

Watch Kobe's second half left handed dunk here http://kobegames.blogspot.com/

dear azka, yeah 5 rings on kobe's hand....yeah, he surely overated! you know a lot about basketball, huh?

Azka-
Kobe over rated? Derrick Rose has a worse shooting percentage than Kobe, and Rose is a much younger player thank KB.

@AzkaTols-FIFA-2014-World-Cup. If you think Kobe is overrated why are you reading an article and watching video of Kobe then?! D-Rose is a great player but here is how I vew the top 5 players in NBA
1.Kobe Bryant
2.Derrick Rose
3.Dwight Howard
4.Lebron James
5.Dwyane Wade

Hey guys,

Mr. Bryant plays OK B-ball.

Yet, he is not even in the same conversation with Larry and Earvin, let's be real folks...

As a C's fan, see you in about a month!

I honestly would have thought Kobe deliberately mislead everyone to catch everyone by surprise HAD I NOT seen the first quarter. Kobe looked terrible that quarter. In fact on one sequence Kobe was one of two primary back court defenders on a loose ball, and instead of playing defense down the court, he allowed the ball to literally pass him by at mid court!

Then Shannon came in and was apparently upset that the Lakersblog voted him the biggest disappointment on the bench. Immediately the Lakers went a run. When Kobe came back in, I was admittedly nervous - until Kobe just went off.

It really made me wonder what I saw in that first quarter, because Kobe really stunk... all the more perplexing.

Let me be the first to say excellent game by the Lakers including one hell of a game by Derek Fisher

Kobe the greatest player of all time.hands down,no contest...

Wow, that was awesome! D-Fish was vintage D-Fish. One of his best games ever! Lamar was aggressive and held the lead to give his man some rest. Ron said when he came to the Lakers that he would have Kobe's back. He proved good on his word. Drew and Pau were monstrous in the paint. The Killer B's were superb! They played with energy and brought the D. Even with all of that, it was all about Kobe. He put the team on his back in the second quarter and put us in the lead for good. He was like, "It is not going to end like this! This will not be Phil's last game at Staples!" When Kobe does stuff like that, the other team gets sort of shell shocked. The Lakers, on the other hand, light up. They realize that this is destiny and they have to play their part. I have seen only glimpses of these Lakers this season - the Lakers that play together and are truly unstoppable. I hope that is all we see all the way to another championship. I feel honored to be able to watch it. I know the rest of the league was watching as well. If they want to win it all, they will have to rip it out of Kobe's hands. After last night, that doesn't look very likely.

I am a Lakerholic.

I am glad PJ activated Trey - leave it that way! We don't need Joe AND Theo to be active. Trey didn't play, but he was ready. The look on his face after Kobe's second jam was priceless. He has to be one of the happiest guys on the planet. Play Trey!

This morning all along my street, people were looking at the blown airbags on their steering wheels. There were at least 30 or 40 cars parked on the street and in my neighbors' driveways. What on Earth could've caused such widespread chaos? Vandals? An electromagnetic pulse? HAARP?

No.

I must've missed the airbag exposions last night while watching the game. Then I realized it... It was Kobe Bryant's intergalactic super dunk on Emeka Okafor's dome that caused the trouble.

I also noticed that all of my clocks in the house were one minute behind. Kobe's left-handed mamma-jamma-thunderclap-supernova-wrecking ball-flaming-torpedo-of-truth-death-blow-dunk somehow caused time to stand still.

Seeing is believing!

Game 6... finish them!

DBDH!

Very nice win Lakeshow.

As the Black Mamba said... "Never too high, never too low".

3 down, 13 more to go... Let's go Lakers!

LAKERS ALL DAY!!!

All the haters coming to the blog only means one thing: They're worried.

And I love it!

C's sweep the first round and act like they're gonna take it all. I hope we get them again in the finals so we can spank their green bootays like we did last year. Ahhhh, game seven. What a sweet memory.

Keep hating, haters. You can't really say ANYTHING, because we basically laugh at you.

GO LAKERS!!!!!!

Posted by: Don't Blame Del Harris! | April 27, 2011 at 06:24 AM
_______________

Very funny!LOL!!!


I guess somewhere out there....Sonny is loving this. (*sniff*sniff*)

Go Lakers Kings of Basketball!

LAKERS ALL DAY!!!

Artest and Fisher hittin shots, nice. Fisher making layups, whoa! That ugly first quarter falls on Phil Jackson shoulders 100%. Also let's be real, the refs were very nice to the Lakers last night.

Posted by: longtimelakerlover | April 27, 2011 at 06:34 AM
___________

IMO, C's are more worried about the Heat now, before they think of us. That is why our Green friends aren't posting here as much as they normally do at this time of the year, especially right after every Lakers loss. They have the Cheat to think about. After they get pass(IF) the Cheat, then I bet they'll be here more often.


LAKERS ALL DAY!!!

MM - Hi !!

You provide more detail and analysis in your recaps than most other writers I follow on the web.The effort shows and you taking some time is very well justified by the quality of the end result.

Please make note of the following and correct me if I am mistaken -

"Injuries and basketball mileage may eventually win in the never-ending fight to remain on top of his game, but no way will he easily succeed that throne to a sprained left ankle and foot. "

"succeed that throne to a sprained left ankle..." makes no sense in the given context.You meant to use it like "abdicate" and "succeed" does not work here at all. Errors of this kind occur more frequently than would be expected from someone like you.Please do make an effort to minimize them.Thank you

Amit

MRI…SmmRI. Good all around performance. Kobe provided the leadership, the bigs played big and the bench brought the energy. The Laker starters shot 58% while the bench only shot 32%. Yet the bench clearly outplayed the Hornets bench.

@Edwin – my advice is to just ignore the haters. I know you like engaging all, but some aren’t worthy or capable of civil discourse.

@Lakerholic – you’re right, vintage Fish!

@DBDH - lol.

@Amit - I'm glad you're not my english teacher. You would have a field day :-)

@ms - way to show Jamerson some love. The Funk Brothers are definitely under appreciated.

@Tri - enjoyed the Wes!


Artest and Fisher hittin shots, nice. Fisher making layups, whoa! That ugly first quarter falls on Phil Jackson shoulders 100%. Also let's be real, the refs were very nice to the Lakers last night.

Posted by: Magia32 | April 27, 2011 at 07:02 AM
--------------------

Magia,

I agree the refs were berry, berry good to the Lakers. But I don't get why you're blaming PJ for the 1st quarter?

I don't get why you're blaming PJ for the 1st quarter?

Posted by: LRob | April 27, 2011 at 07:28 AM
---------------------------------------------
The entire 1st quarter NO kept goin to the pick n roll and Phil Jackson just sat there asleep without making a change to how to defend CP3. No double, no faster player to stay with CP3 (Blake and Brown are both faster than Fisher).

MM - Phil obviously would have preferred that Kobe get the MRI. He was worried about him. I agreed with him and you - thinking it is better to know. We didn't consider the time factor however. Kobe knows his body and knew he didn't break anything. He felt that the time to go get the MRI would be wasted and he had only so many hours to get ready to play. The Laker Organization backed him on the decision as did Phil. So Kobe doesn't get the MRI and plays on a possibly broken foot…

It seems a little rope-a-dope. Sometimes if it looks, smells, tastes, and feels like a fish… it's a fish! The replay made it look bad. He walked out on crutches... If it was drama, it was great drama! He has to foul because he can't keep up... Then, when everybody is standing around hoping he doesn't dribble it off his foot and be embarrassing, he flies through the air and delivers the most thunderous monster slam of the year over their center the like of which you usually only see in video games...

I loved it. I'm just sayin'... Look at the interviews with Phil closely - you will see a twinkle in his eye... ;-)

Kobe is the first to admit that all of his best moves are stolen from others. The Celtics won that game where PP pulled that wheelchair crap... ;-)

No matter what “really happened”, the bottom line is he inspired his team to greatness. He also demoralized the other team. He was like, “Anybody else want to be on Sport Center with me dunking on your head?” I love to watch great basketball and that was great basketball.

Excellent TEAM win last night. If we can see the same tomorrow night, I'd almost call it consistency.

Lakerholic - totally agree. I just knew it was a Fisher moment waiting to happen. All the signs were there for Fish to step up and do what he does best in the playoff spotlight. He helped his brother - that's what he always does.

And I would even go so far to say excellent strategy by PJ and training staff to have Kobe leave NO on crutches (remember Paula in the wheelchair?) to create a little bit of gimpy space for Kobe to rise above. NOH has been smothering Kobe and give him a little space, get big returns. Classic mental games by PJ, classic.

Lakers are gearing up folks. Like I said yesterday - buckle up, this one is going to be fun.

Cheers - PLG

Posted by: Don't Blame Del Harris! | April 27, 2011 at 06:24 AM

------------

i actually won suite tickets to the game. when the first dunk happened, our suite shook. when the second dunk happened, it shook and i fell out!

in all seriousness though, you notice a lot of things in person as opposed to on TV.

one thing not so obvious is how pau just holds on to the ball for 5-10 second stretches "analyzing" the defense. he should act faster and have the defense adjust.

drew can't make a damn layup. err, multiple layups.

whatever player kobe was guarding was the player that was hot for the hornets. think ariza 1st half, bellinelli 2nd half. pj is right when he calls kobe a liability on defense.

either way, first playoff experience in person was pretty nuts. that crowd gets pretty loud. wish they gave us t shirts/towels though. forget the tacos!

BALLIN LIKE A BAWSSSS #BICEPKISS

Ok Lakers, now just play like that 13 more times...


-- Lakerholic, deserved shout out bout D Fish and the game he put together. That was vintage efficiency from FIsh. He made enough plays on CP to keep him earthbound and hit shots. We're a whole different team when the Fish shot is fallin'.

Tim-4-Show, Sorry Tim, but Kobe was faking the injury, everything. From the crutches, the limps, to the first quarter slow moving stuff. It was all an act from this movie star want-a-be.

Don't you see WHY Kobe refused to get the MRI? It would show that NOTHING was wrong with this 'glory-hog of a selfish ball player'.

This guy makes me sick. Please, folks! Don't let yourselves be fooled by 'Me-Kobe's antics!

Fatty - Who's auditioning for a LA Times staff writer job


MM

The main consideration of the MRI debate we all missed was
"2 hours on the 405".

Can't argue with the Mamba there, especially if you have to keep the foot elevated.

Have you ever tried to elevate your foot while driving a Lamborghini?

@LRob - LOL. I am sure your diction is better than mine. I try not to point out these things because MM more than makes up for them in other facets of his work.I hope he does not take it otherwise.

LRob, will take your advice from hereon. It is just appalling why we deserved that kind of hate.

DBDH, boy that's funny and very creative -" Kobe's left-handed mamma-jamma-thunderclap-supernova-wrecking ball-flaming-torpedo-of-truth-death-blow-dunk somehow caused time to stand still."

If Kobe (or anybody here) can walk & run at the park after an ankle tweaked, do you want still to know the extent of injury? You know there is no fracture or else you can't walk at all. However, there was a lingering pain compared before the injury. At that point, it becomes mind over matter, you are the first doctor to diagnose yourself because it is your body. I'm sure without discussing in public, he consulted someone and see what the sprain feels. He also felt the inconvenience during the warm-ups and 1st quarter but again it is the will power of Kobe that separates him from an ordinary star player. There are only few players in the history of the game who could withstand pain and gut it out for the sake of the team. It is not for us to judge who he is and what it should be because we are definitely not Kobe. Just enjoy while it lasts.

Modern medicine? Let's take a closer look at that....

Kobe, Superman? I think giving Shaq that name was misplaced. Kobe is the real superman.

frank pratt: any relation to donald trump?

broken fingers? not a problem
surgically repaired knee? what's that?
twice sprained ankle? i didn't notice

black mamba greatest of all time! there is NO OTHER great of the game who has played through so many inuries, that monster dunk over okafor injected life back into the sleepwalking lakers. so keep on hating, haters!

"walking in a Staples Center hallway prior to the game where Fisher pretended to appear what he called "old and decrepit" so that the TNT cameras would focus less on Bryant."

That's right. Pretended....lol jk

In all seriousness, Kobe is a competitor. He competed with Shaq. He competes with the media. He competed with the Celtics. And now he's competing with his hardest challenge: Kobe Bryant.

Kobe had one person he wanted to defeat last night, and that was his body. He won't let it beat him.

Is that the real Fatty?? sounds like an impostor???

Sometimes Kobe reminds me of the black knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

"It's just a flesh wound!"

my GOD that was excellent....kobe your the best.....

thats awesome


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