- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
- 0 Shares
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant was in the starting lineup for Tuesday's season opener against the Dallas Mavericks after being sidelined for more than a week with a strained right foot.
"Feeling good enough to play tonight! I'll use my strong midsoles for added cushion on the foot for more protection," Bryant posted on his Facebook page before the game. "Looking forward to this journey as I'm sure you are. It's Go Time. Mamba out."
Bryant said Tuesday he felt "pretty good" after participating in running drills at the team's shootaround, putting pressure on the foot for the first time since injuring it in a preseason game nine days ago.
"From my understanding, there is no risk," Lakers coach Mike Brown said. "Obviously, if it bothers him or something like that then we'll pull him out, but I think it's just from my understanding he's good enough to go and there's no risk with him going that he'll damage it further."
Bryant suffered the injury Oct. 21 against the Sacramento Kings when he tripped on Thomas Robinson's foot while cutting through the lane. He missed the team's final two preseason games and seven consecutive days of practice.
Bryant, enjoying a successful preseason with averages of 20.4 points on 50 percent shooting, 4.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists in just 26.8 minutes per game, likened the accident to a soccer injury that caused pain in both his ankle and his foot.
"Ankle sprains really don't bother me," the 34-year-old said. "I've rolled it so many times that I really don't have anything left down there. This was more like an ankle contusion. The swelling just went down to the tendon that runs beneath my foot, and I couldn't put any pressure on it whatsoever."
Bryant said he would not need to wear any extra tape or a soft cast on the ankle, but planned on wearing the "strong" sole version of his signature Nikes.
Brown said the injury put Bryant in a "chippy" mood, as all of the 14-time All-Star's offseason work -- including shedding 15 pounds to take pressure off his joints -- was nearly dashed a week before tipoff.
"It's been the most frustrating (injury)," Bryant said. "When dealing with tendons, there's nothing you can really do therapy-wise. The more you treat it with manual therapy, the worse it gets. So it's kind of just a waiting game. Just waiting and allow it to heal on its own, which is pretty frustrating."
The Lakers practiced for just more than an hour after a short film session Tuesday morning, but there were no live contact drills. It was still enough to convince Brown that Bryant was ready to play.
"He looked fine to me," Brown said.
The Lakers follow Tuesday's game against the Mavs with the second night of a back-to-back on the road against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Bryant said his availability for that game would depend on how his foot reacts to the game agaisnt the Mavs.
"It's just a matter of if it gets worse," Bryant said. "Like I said, I did a lot of running (Tuesday) morning. So you just kind of wait and see if it gets worse (Tuesday) afternoon. If it doesn't, then it's one of those injuries that you can kind of play through and manage and it gets better. If it gets worse, then I just got to shut it down."
Bryant said the draw of playing on opening night with the revamped Lakers' roster motivates him, but ultimately, he will not push it if any setbacks occur.
"Of course, I want to play," Bryant said. "We've put together a great roster here, and I've worked real hard this summer to get myself in tip-top shape and be ready to go.
"So I'm not going to play with an injury that's going to get progressively worse and just limp through the season. I've worked too hard for that."
9hEthan Sherwood Strauss
8hArash Markazi and Ben Alamar
2dAlok Pattani, ESPN Stats & Information
2dDan Le Batard