Kobe Bryant plays 12 minutes
INDIANAPOLIS -- Kobe Bryant played just 12 minutes, all in the first quarter, in the Lakers' 99-93 win over the Pacers on Friday.
It was all his severely sprained left ankle could take.
Bryant went 0-for-4 from the field for zero points along with two assists and one turnover before asking out of the game.
"It was really stiff," Bryant said. "It just continued to swell. I couldn't put any weight on it so I had to call it a night."
Bryant said his ankle "improved a lot" since injuring it during Wednesday's loss at Atlanta, but he was able to perform with limited movement.
"I couldn't put any pressure on it," Bryant said. "I couldn't post, I couldn't back a guy down, I couldn't move defensively. I just couldn't put any pressure on it ... I could shoot standing still. I could shoot, but once I started getting up and down at a pretty good pace, it just continued to get worse. It didn't loosen up at all."
Bryant knew going into the game that he would be limited.
"What I told them is, 'I don't know how much I have, but whatever I have, I'm going to give you,'" Bryant said. "That's all my message was to them."
Bryant would not say whether he thought he would be able to play Sunday when the Lakers host the Kings, but Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni is certainly open to the possibility of Bryant resting.
"It just depends on how (his ankle) reacts to the plane flight home," D'Antoni said. "I wouldn't bet against him, but Sunday I'm sure they'll come and tell me whether he can play or not."
The Lakers have the day off Saturday and D'Antoni would not mind if Bryant extended his rest.
"He could take a day off or two and that might help him, but that's on him," D'Antoni said.
If Bryant takes off from playing, he will not take off from coaching as he was seen several times grabbing the dry erase board on the bench and mapping out a play for a teammate or yelling out sets to look for while the game was in progress.
"(I'll) keep coaching," Bryant said. "You put guys in positions to be successful, man. I watch a boatload of film so I know, I'm very well prepared. I'm going to continue to try to put guys in positions to be successful, as simple as that."
Bryant spent two days trying to fight his way back after landing on the foot of Atlanta's Dahntay Jones. Throughout the day, he looked better and after going through warm-ups, the Lakers put Bryant in the starting lineup.
Bryant went through a workout with Lakers trainer Gary Vitti that lasted about 25 minutes three hours prior to tip-off determined to play.
D'Antoni said he would be watchful of how Bryant performed.
"We don't want to injure it anymore, and we'll see how it goes," D'Antoni said before the game. "He's going to be productive. He'll find a way to be productive. That won't be the question. I just hope that he's got to make sure that he won't make it worse than what it is."
Just five previous times in his 17-year career with the Lakers has Bryant played in every regular-season game.
"He is 34 years old and he's played 17 years. He has to know whether he can play or not," D'Antoni said. "There's no way you can look inside of it and if he can, then it's the right thing to do. Especially if he wants to do it and obviously he does."
Down The Stretch They Come
The Lakers are in the thick of the playoff race, but will be hard-pressed to reach the postseason without Kobe Bryant. Among the three teams that are fighting for the 7th and 8th spots in the Western Conference playoff picture, the schedules are quite similar.
Remaining Schedules This Season
|** Avg win pct of remaining opponents|
-- ESPN Stats & Information
Bryant already has played through a right foot injury and lingering right elbow discomfort this season.
"I've only been here a few months, but from what I've seen, I've seen him play through worse stuff," said D'Antoni.
Bryant suffered a severely sprained left ankle when he landed awkwardly after taking a potential game-tying jump shot with 3.9 seconds remaining in Wednesday's 96-92 loss. He appeared to land on Jones' foot , who was defending him closely on the play, and rolled the ankle before crumpling to the floor in pain.
Jones has taken heat for the play, but said Thursday that he did not intentionally try to injure Bryant.
"I didn't try to intentionally come up under him," Jones said. "I was trying to play as hard as I could, to compete at a high level, to try to to help my team win and try to contest the jump shot.
"I didn't want to give up on the play. I take pride in how hard I compete and not give up on plays, and that's all I was trying to do. It would be very hard for me in a nine-second span to be able to play defense and gauge where I could get my foot up under his as I'm looking at the ball and trying to contest the jump shot."
Regardless of whether Jones made a dirty play, the NBA acknowledged in a statement Thursday that officials should have called a foul on the play.
"After review at the league office, video replay confirmed that referees missed a foul call on Jones as he challenged Bryant's shot and did not give him the opportunity to land cleanly back on the floor," the league statement said. "Bryant should have been granted two free throws."
D'Antoni gave his take on the play after shootaround.
"It was the classic 'he just came down on the foot and turned it,'" D'Antoni said. "I agree with the NBA, but it happens. It happens all the time. It's one of the bad things, but they did make a conscious effort [to change the rules] that if you come down on somebody's foot, that's a foul [on the defender]. So, that's kind of an automatic foul."
D'Antoni also said Pau Gasol is nearing a return from the plantar fascia tear that has kept him out the past five weeks.
"Sometime Sunday, Monday right through there he'll be ready to roll, hopefully, with no setbacks," D'Antoni said.
The Lakers will host the Kings on Sunday and play the second day of a back-to-back Monday in Phoenix against the Suns. D'Antoni said the Suns game would be more likely, pinning Gasol's return one day before the end of the six-week window he was slated to be out.
When Gasol was asked which day he would return, he shrugged his shoulders and said, "Or Friday," before walking off the court.
D'Antoni said Gasol could take some time to get his conditioning back before eventually assuming a role in the starting lineup.
"He's going to be a starter at some point, and he's going to be a big part of what we do," D'Antoni said. "So, that's for sure. Whether it's the first day, the fifth day or the 10th day, I don't know. Depends a lot on his conditioning and how everything is going, but we will work him back in where he starts."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.