Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NBA [Print without images]

Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Kobe Bryant's absence at 6 games

By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Lakers are rolling right along in Kobe Bryant's absence and will go without their All-Star guard for the sixth consecutive game on Tuesday against the San Antonio Spurs.

In pregame remarks, Lakers coach Mike Brown noted that Bryant will "most likely" miss Wednesday's game against Golden State, as well.

Brown said Bryant is continuing to show marked improvement from the tenosynovitis injury to his left shin that has sidelined him since April 7. The Lakers went 4-1 in their first five games without Bryant, which included an impressive 98-84 win in San Antonio -- owners of the West's best record at 43-16.

The Lakers did not have practice on Monday after spending the early portion of the day posing for their official team photo, but Bryant stuck around to shoot at the Lakers' practice facility.

"He's done some on-court stuff," Brown said after the Lakers' shootaround on Tuesday. "We're still taking it day by day. He's out today, but there's a lot of progress that is being made, which is good."

Brown said Bryant's activity has included playing one on one. "He' starting to move around a little bit pretty good," the coach said.

Bryant, who already is walking pain-free after shedding the protective boot that was covering his left shin, must prove to the training staff that he can run and jump without pain before he will be cleared to play.

The Lakers have five games remaining in the regular season, including Tuesday's against the Spurs. They play the Golden State Warriors on the road on Wednesday on the second night of a back-to-back and have another game against the Spurs on Friday in San Antonio. The Lakers finish the season with a home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder and a road game against the Sacramento Kings.

Bryant told ESPN/ABC sideline reporter Heather Cox on Sunday he will "definitely be back well before the playoffs," but Brown did not offer an expected return date for Bryant.

"I don't know if it's scientific," Brown said. "I think with a guy like Kobe, especially, his feel is so great for the game that I think he'll be able to ease in probably better than most guys. For me to sit here and say he needs five games or he needs two games would not be correct. I think it's just more by feel than anything else."

The Lakers lead the Clippers by one game for the No. 3 spot in the Western Conference playoff standings.

"If it was our goal (to hold off the Clippers at all costs), then we would be trying to rush Kobe back," Brown said. "But, the reality of it is, whether we finish first, second, third, fourth, fifth, it doesn't matter. I feel like this team is confident enough and good enough to win on anybody's floor. Now, we're not going to relinquish anything that we have control over. If it happens that we slide down, then we slide down. We'll play anybody wherever, whenever."