My ESPNLosAngeles.com colleague Dave McMenamin's got the words. I'm providing the "talkies." Both versions support the same conclusion: Kobe Bryant appears unlikely to suit up Thursday against the Boston Celtics, even though, as he joked, we're talking about a "big TNT doubleheader."
For the time being, ain't happening. Maybe if Mamba wakes up Thursday feeling especially pain-free and explosive it'll be another story, but Bryant's not betting on such a rapid recovery. As he notes, this isn't just a matter of an ankle sprain, which he's played through in the past, but also strained tendons (and muscles in his left leg), "which often have their own agenda on when they want to heal up."
Once Kobe actually made the decision to miss a game (much less a handful), it struck me as considerably easier to take whatever time necessary to heal up, since he's already gone this far. My instincts were correct. "I'm not going to have it be in vain," said Bryant of his absence. Plus, the process isn't so agonizing when his teammates not only encourage him to get back into the pink, but step up with him on the shelf. As a result, 24's quite literally losing no sleep over this situation.
"When I lay my head down and go to sleep for a couple hours or however long I sleep, I'm happy."
Phil Jackson is known for a big picture view, so it's no shocker he's cool with Kobe missing some regular season games, even against tough opponents, if it means being being as healthy as possible come April and beyond.
Speaking of tough games, Ron Artest isn't particularly caught up in the Lakers-Celtics "rivalry thing or whatever." He just wants to win the game. For that matter, he's not interested in revisiting his jostling with Paul Pierce's before the opening jump ball during January's win in Boston.
"I'm beyond that. It's a whole new day. Can't really focus on the past."
For all of the media/fan talk about how going 4-0 without Kobe helps build the team's confidence, the supporting cast hasn't seemed particularly fazed by the good fortune. As Lamar Odom notes, "We've known for two or three seasons now that the strength of our team is our depth. When one guy goes out, even when it's Kobe, we've got other guys who can step up now ready to play. We know how good we are."
If you ever need confirmation of just how badly Pau Gasol wants to be a Laker for life, check out the following clip, then wonder no more. His odds of getting traded are about as likely as me getting offered a max deal contract, but when I dryly noted El Spaniard probably isn't going anywhere, his reaction was deadly earnest:
"I hope not. It's where I want to be and I'm going to continue to work hard to be here."
Not even a hint of a smile. That's what several years toiling in Memphis can do to the ol' funny bone.