Kobe Bryant won't play vs. Spurs
SAN ANTONIO -- The condition of Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant's inflamed left shin continues to improve, but Bryant will sit out his third consecutive game Wednesday against the San Antonio Spurs, Lakers coach Mike Brown said.
Bryant did not participate in Lakers practice on Tuesday at Antioch Community Sports Complex in San Antonio and declined to speak to reporters. One sign of Bryant's improvement, however, was the absence of a protective boot covering his left shin as he walked out of the gymnasium.
Bryant sat out Wednesday's shootaround as well, but was without the boot once again. Longtime Lakers trainer Gary Vitti said he wants to see how Bryant's shin responds while he is "ambulating," or walking around, after there were positive results from the shin being immobilized the last several days.
Bryant suffered the injury on March 31 when he was kicked in the shin during the first quarter of the Lakers' 88-85 win over the New Orleans Hornets.
He sat out the Lakers' past two games, a 125-105 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Saturday and a 93-91 win over the Hornets on Monday. By opting to sit out against San Antonio, Bryant will have had a full week's worth of rest come Friday should he decide to suit up at home against the Denver Nuggets.
"Really, the only way to stop [the inflammation] is to shut him down," Vitti said Saturday.
Vitti re-evaluated Bryant on Monday in New Orleans and Tuesday in San Antonio and reported improvements after each examination. Bryant's status remains day to day, according to the team.
Following shootaround Wednesday, Brown said it was too soon to tell whether Bryant would play against the Nuggets on Friday.
"I just know he's out (against the Spurs)," Brown said. "I would flat out be guessing without anything to back it up. ... If he does (play against Denver), great. If he doesn't, that's fine. We just need to go lace them up."
As of Tuesday, the Lakers held a 1½-game lead over the Los Angeles Clippers for the third seed in the Western Conference playoff standings. The Lakers trail the second-seeded Spurs by 5½ games. In a quirk of the lockout-compressed schedule, the Lakers' game against the Spurs on Wednesday marks the first meeting out of three scheduled in the next 10 days after the two teams failed to match up through the first 58 games of the season.
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"The good part about it is we'll have a couple more shots at it," Brown said when asked if he was disappointed he wouldn't have his full roster for a key game against the Spurs. "We're not too worried about that. It's OK that it's taking time for him to get right."
Devin Ebanks, who has averaged 9.0 points starting at shooting guard in Bryant's absence (a significant jump from his season average of 3.1 points) is expected to maintain the starting role again against San Antonio.
In the meantime, Brown welcomes having Bryant on the bench in an unofficial assistant coaching role.
"I felt like [Bryant] really brought the group closer together [against New Orleans] because he was so engaged with what we had going on throughout the entire course of the game, whether it was with the coaches or with the players or with the players and coaches together," Brown said. "He was always in the mix and when you see your leader like that in the mix, it kind of makes everybody else want to be a part, too."