Would you support Kobe Bryant sitting out All-Star games?
The question may sound ill-timed considering we're in an NBA lockout, not the NBA All-Star break. But with Derek Jeter's controversial decision to sit out baseball's Major League Baseball's All-Star game Tuesday, citing exhaustion after securing his 3,000th career hit, I wondered how the public would have reacted had Kobe Bryant done such a thing.
Obviously, Bryant is wired to play every single game. Heck, at his summer camp last week he seemed delighted to throw down a 360-degree dunk -- and show up rapper Bow Wow -- just weeks after undergoing a form of platelet-rich plasma therapy on his knee.
Last year Bryant reluctantly sat out what would have been his 12th All-Star game because of a sprained left ankle, and later said it was difficult to watch that game in Dallas go down to a last-second shot.
Bryant's All-Star absence last year, however, was not quite the same as Jeter's no-show this week. Bryant's injury had kept him out of the previous three regular-season games -- and he missed two more Lakers games before before returning to the lineup. Plus, Bryant still made the trip to Dallas and assisted Lakers guard Shannon Brown in the NBA Dunk Contest. Jeter didn't attend any of the MLB All-Star festivities in Phoenix and was actually spotted in Miami with his girlfriend, Minka Kelly.
Clearly, Bryant doesn't see NBA All-Star weekend as a vacation, but he also doesn't care if the game lacks any practical significance. That was evident when Bryant argued this year that the NBA All-Star game shouldn't determine home-court advantage in the NBA Finals the way the MLB All-Star game determines World Series home-field advantage.
"And just discount the 82 regular-season games based on one game?" Bryant asked. "No, I think it's fine the way it is. You can't take it over the top with seriousness and all that. It's a showcase for us to come out and perform and compete. Obviously the competition picks up in the fourth quarter. This is fun. This isn't something that's overly dramatic."
Bryant made those comments after collecting his fourth All-Star MVP in February, tying a record held by Bob Pettit, with 37 points on 14-of-26 shooting and 14 rebounds put. Bryant's five dunks sent a message that he still deserved the spotlight in L.A. after Clippers forward Blake Griffin captivated fans the night before by dunking over a Kia Optima in the slam-dunk contest.
With that performance, Bryant also sent his teammates a message after the Lakers entered the All-Star break with two embarrassing losses to Charlotte and Cleveland.
But after the All-Star break Bryant suddenly lacked endurance and couldn't close games in his usual way. It's fair to wonder if his burst of energy in the All-Star game would have been more useful in the post-season.
That's why next year's All-Star game might provoke an interesting debate. Would it be in Bryant's interest to skip the game to maximize recovery time for possible future injuries? Or should he use an All-Star appearance to send a message telling his teammates to pick up their intensity as he did this year? One thing is certain: Don't expect Bryant to spend All-Star weekend in Miami the way Jeter did.
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Photo: Bryant is fouled by Dwight Howard of the Magic in the 2011 NBA All-Star game Feb. 20 at Staples Center. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times.
Photo: Bryant protects the ball from Heat forward LeBron James in February's All-Star game. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / February 20, 2011