- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
- 0 Shares
Bryant did not participate in practice Monday, marking the seventh straight day he was sidelined with a strained and bruised right foot that he hurt during the preseason while tripping over a Sacramento Kings player's foot.
Bryant will be a game-time decision Tuesday when the Lakers host the Dallas Mavericks. Bryant underwent an MRI late last week that merely confirmed a strain and contusion of Bryant's foot, Lakers spokesman John Black said.
Two Lakers sources told ESPNLosAngeles.com's Ramona Shelburne Monday night that Bryant has made "progress" in the last few days, but there is still uncertainty over whether he will be able to play Tuesday night.
Bryant posted on his Facebook page Monday night that he was "getting stronger" and added, "I will know more after shoot around tomorrow am. It's still painful to raise up on my toes but, it's strong. The decision to be made is whether the injury can heal while playing on it or if it will make it worse."
"There's concern there just because you want him to be healthy or as healthy as possible, but at the end of the day, that's part of the reason why this is a team," said Lakers coach Mike Brown. "Other guys have got to be ready to step up and be ready to play if he can't go."
Steve Nash, a 17-year veteran that, like Bryant, knows the rigors of getting one's body ready for the grind of an 82-game season year in and year out, preached patience regarding Bryant's status.
"From our perspective, there's no rush," Nash said. "If he's ready to go (Tuesday), great. But if he's not, he's not. I think we've got a lot of ballgames to play this year and there's no point in causing something to linger at this stage of the season."
For what it's worth, Metta World Peace held out hope that Bryant would suit up, saying, "There's no way I can see him missing the game."
Bryant did not speak to reporters Monday, but could be seen observing practice from the sidelines while wearing sweatpants and sandals.
He has not been a silent observer, according to Brown.
"He's so intelligent that he does a lot of coaching from the side," Brown said. "Right now, I just look at him as an assistant coach. He might not like to hear it, because he doesn't want to take a big pay cut, but he's been in-tune, involved with practice every day and so he knows what's going on."
The Lakers won't be the only team dealing with injuries Tuesday night. Dallas won't have Dirk Nowitzki (right knee surgery) or Chris Kaman (strained right calf) in the lineup and are expected to start training camp free-agent signee Eddy Curry at center.
"We can't relax because a really good player is not out there," said Pau Gasol. "With this team they have other versatile players, they have other young players that are hungry and they're going to compete and they're going to come in here with no pressure ready to have a good game. That's a dangerous situation to face for a team. If you're not 100 percent focused, it might get you."
The good news for the Lakers is Jordan Hill (herniated disk) is expected to be available to play Tuesday, even though he sat out Monday's practice as a precautionary measure and reserve forward Earl Clark has also recovered from a groin injury that kept him out for much of camp.
Also, Jodie Meeks has filled in well at shooting guard with the first unit in Bryant's absence.
"Jodie's a great shooter," said Dwight Howard. "He's been looking great in practice, so hopefully he'll do good (Tuesday) and the rest of the season. ... I like him. I like him a lot. I think he has potential to be a real special player for our team."
As for Howard, who played in just two out of the Lakers' eight preseason games, he said he is excited to play even though he would not venture a guess as to how many minutes he'll be out there. Howard averaged 14.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in 28.5 minutes per game in the preseason.
"I'm still in the process of rehabbing," Howard said. "I would say now, if I was compared to a house, I have a foundation and the walls and everything throughout, but there's no carpet on the floor. There's no heating. So, right now the foundation is there, that's what we're building on. We're building on the foundation."
Still, Bryant or no Bryant, Howard is anxious for his Laker career to officially begin.
"I'm ready to play, man," Howard said. "I think all of us are ready. The popcorn and the lights come on (Tuesday)."
With the 2012-13 NBA season just a day away, the Los Angeles Lakers still do not know if Kobe Bryant will be in the opening night lineup.