Phil Jackson says Kobe Bryant's sprained left ankle "still affects him a lot"
For the last three games, Bryant played through the pain of a sprained left ankle and has had additional treatment beyond what he already received on his surgically repaired right knee. The lasting images might be Bryant's one-handed dunk over Emeka Okafor and his 19-point performance in Game 5 after refusing to get an MRI exam and X-rays on his ankle, but the reality behind closed doors reveals that his managing pain will be a playoff-long effort.
"It still affects him a lot," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said of Bryant, who sat out of Saturday's practice. "This is not going to go away anytime soon so we're just going to have to be close to what he's doing and monitor it a lot. He'll have a limited amount of practice time and it's something he'll have to do."
Bryant acknowledged the extra time with the recovery process, but predictably shot down any suggestion that the ankle is adversely affecting him.
"I'm fine," said Bryant, who sprained his ankle in the final minutes of the Lakers' Game 4 loss to New Orleans and received what he called "around the clock" treatment on his ankle since that time. "I finished off Game 4 fine, played Game 5 fine and Game 6 fine."
Of course, Bryant's response is to be expected considering his reluctance in talking openly about his injuries and making it clear his determination will help him make any adjustments necessary. But his health will still center on the Lakers' success or failure, much like it did in the first-round series against New Orleans.
""It's tender to the touch still," Jackson said of Bryant's sprained ankle. "He's still limping when he walks. It's a limited amount of improvement."
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Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant dunks during the second half of the Lakers' 106-90 victory over the New Orleans Hornets in Game 5 of the Western Conference quarterfinals Tuesday at Staples Center. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times