Not to impugn the importance of ears, noses, and throats, for a handy trio they make, but brain trumps all three. So when Kobe Bryant was sent Tuesday from an ear, nose, and throat specialist to a neurologist for an MRI, it seemed a little worrisome. Following practice in El Segundo this afternoon, the Lakers said in a statement the 16-year veteran had in fact suffered not just a nasal fracture in Sunday's All-Star Game, but a concussion as well following a hard third-quarter foul from Miami's Dwyane Wade.
Kobe will be re-evaluated ahead of Wednesday's game against the Timberwolves at Staples, at which point his availability can be determined. In a move that may or may not be related, the Lakers recalled Devin Ebanks from the D-League. He was at practice this afternoon, and could be active tomorrow.
Interestingly, the NBA adopted a new policy this year regarding concussions, creating a protocol determining when a player can return to action after suffering a head injury. Players now must be symptom free, then successfully complete a series of physical tests of increasing difficulty (stationary bike, jogging, agility work, non-contact team drills) while avoiding the return of symptoms. From there, the NBA's neurologist leading the program must be consulted before the player can return to the floor.
How all this impacts Kobe's timeline is something I don't yet know, though missing Wednesday's game certainly is a possibility. The protocol for clearance takes time.
Nobody doubts Bryant would play with a broken nose, but obviously concussions are an entirely different issue requiring far more caution. Hopefully his is mild and the doctor declares him good to go tomorrow, but the Lakers and Bryant would be wise to play this one very, very safe. Beyond the big picture issues of Bryant's overall well being, the last thing they need is for symptoms to linger.
Meanwhile, this will certainly add another layer of intrigue to Sunday's game against the Heat.