Wednesday night, Derek Fisher suggested Kobe Bryant would probably hack off his injured right wrist and play left-handed if it meant getting on the floor for Sunday's opener against Chicago. Friday afternoon, Bryant practiced and declared himself fit. Even better, there wasn't a saw anywhere in sight.
Bryant said the torn lunotriquetral ligament, suffered in Monday's exhibition loss to the Clippers, is painful and has forced some "subtle" measures to compensate, but ultimately he's just trying to forget about it. Neither coach Mike Brown nor Bryant's teammates noticed anything different about him this afternoon, so apparently Kobe is doing fine in that regard.
That Bryant is taking the floor will shock ... nobody. The big question, as it generally is with Kobe, isn't about "if" but "should." Is Bryant doing the smart thing by suiting up?
For some, it's a tricky question, particularly in a 66-game season in which the Lakers will be missing Andrew Bynum for the first four and are still de-learning Phil Jackson and absorbing Brown's nuances. Each game is about 20 percent more important than in a normal campaign, so an extra loss or two while Kobe sits has a greater impact. On the other hand, if Kobe eschews a 10-day recovery (just tossing out numbers) but is eventually forced into something longer, that's even worse.
I'll throw my lot in with Bryant's judgment along with that of the Lakers' medical staff. At this point, the issue seems centered more on pain management than avoiding greater damage down the line. Assuming that's the case, there's really no reason for Kobe not to strap 'em up, and I don't see any reason to doubt. Bryant undeniably finds fuel in his reputation as a play-at-all-costs warrior. Iron Kobe, the man who performs while others would be hospitalized, is part of his persona. At the same time, while Kobe is fearless and has a pain tolerance bordering on disturbing, he's also not stupid.
Over the last couple of seasons, Bryant has when necessary chosen discretion over valor. As much as he knows missing games early would handicap the team, he's also aware a lengthy absence later in the year basically sinks the Lakers. He wouldn't chance it, and neither would L.A.'s docs.
If Bryant says he can play and the Lakers are willing to let him, it's reasonable to believe the risk, while obviously present, isn't excessive.