Kobe Bryant is doing a banged-up job for Lakers – LA Times

By Mike Bresnahan
Los Angeles Times


It all started Dec. 11, on a slow, maybe even lazy, pass from Jordan Farmar at the three-point line.


Kobe Bryant reached out for it, trying to get there before Minnesota forward Corey Brewer, but the ball was slightly deflected by Brewer and hit Bryant’s right index finger before ricocheting out of bounds.


Bryant felt a pop in the finger and bent down on one knee, experiencing the first of many painful turns his season would take.


This hasn’t been a quiet, injury-free series of months for Bryant, who played in all 105 of the Lakers’ games last season and all 103 the season before that.


Since sustaining a broken finger that night against the Timberwolves, Bryant has battled a sore ankle that sidelined him for five games in February and swelling in his right knee that kept him out of the Lakers’ last two games.


He might return today against Portland, but it’s been a pass-the-pain-reliever type of season for Bryant, 31, who hates talking about his injuries almost as much as he despises Lakers losing streaks, but has had to acknowledge them numerous times this season.


He tried to slip out a side door after watching the Lakers’ loss in Denver last Thursday and seemed disappointed when a reporter was waiting to get the details on his knee flare-up.


“Why are you asking me about injuries?” he said, rolling his eyes. Then he proceeded to make a rare admission.


“I couldn’t get enough elevation on my jump shot,” he said as his reason for sitting out.


Bryant has had that knee surgically repaired twice, in 2003 to relieve pain caused by persistent swelling and again in 2006 to clean out scar tissue and loose cartilage.


It is unclear whether he will have surgery on the knee after this season, but, indeed, his hops aren’t at their tops.


“I can’t deny it. You can see it if you go back three, four or five years,” said Minnesota Timberwolves Coach Kurt Rambis, a former Lakers assistant. “You can go back and look at the difference in the pop in his legs. To me it’s obvious it’s had an impact.”


The issues don’t end there.


When Bryant hurt his finger, he walked to the bench and winced as trainer Gary Vitti leaned over to touch it. The immediate assessment was a sprain, but it was quickly changed to an avulsion fracture, a diagnosis that turned out to be underselling the extent of the injury.


An avulsion fracture doesn’t sound like a cover-the-eyes circumstance as far as its definition