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Kobe Bryant's wrist injury could be a seasonlong problem

December 22, 2011 |  5:05 pm

The initial thud made Kobe Bryant wince for a second. But he immediately stood up and felt nothing painful in his right wrist.

The night after the Lakers' 114-95 exhibition loss to the Clippers on Monday, Bryant felt his right wrist swell so much that it appeared to balloon in size.  And then at practice Tuesday, he took four shots with his left hand before realizing the pain reached a threshold. Bryant stopped practicing and received an MRI exam.

"That's when I knew we had something else going on," Bryant said Thursday after the Lakers practiced in El Segundo. "I just tried to take care of it." 

Everything surrounding Bryant's initial reaction to his fall after Clippers center DeAndre Jordan blocked his dunk says everything about his determined attitude and his meticulous attention to how his body responds to pain. But it also shows how the status of the torn lunotriquetral ligament in Bryant's right wrist could prove to be forever fluctuating.

Bryant can insist "I should be fine" for the Lakers' season opener Christmas Day against the Chicago Bulls. He can undergo therapy and do various exercises to improve his range of motion. He can wear a padded device on his wrist to minimize the damage.

But no matter how well Bryant takes care of his body or simply manages a way to play through his injury, one unsettling reality remains:

"It's not really going to heal," Bryant said. "It's gone. The ligament is gone. There's nothing I can do about it. I've dealt with so many hand injuries. I should be all right."

Bryant may surely feel all right. He spent an off-season that entailed undergoing an innovative procedure that appears to have fully healed his right knee. He no longer wears any padding or splint to protect his arthritic right index finger. Lakers Coach Mike Brown recalled when he, as the Cavaliers' coach, saw Bryant post 20 points, 12 assists and six rebounds in a regular-season game in 2009 despite dislocating his right pinkie. He's sort of used to this.

"It's always been in my nature to figure out a way to play," Bryant said. "The injuries that I've had, I've been fortunate enough to play through them. I didn't have injuries that would get worse the more I played on them."

But consider that Bryant's injuries remain unpredictable. Two seasons ago, Bryant broke his right index finger, leading the team to predict that he would heal in six weeks. Actually, change that to indefinitely, with Bryant later developing arthritis in the knuckle of that finger during the postseason after refusing to sit out any games to get treatment.

The Lakers can't afford such a luxury this season with an already depleted lineup. For better or worse, the severity of the Lakers' struggles remain just as flimsy as Bryant's right wrist. 


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-- Mark Medina
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