Bryant expected to be named MVP at Tuesday press conference

LOS ANGELES -- The NBA has scheduled a news conference for Tuesday at a Los Angeles hotel, where Kobe Bryant is expected to be announced as winner of his first Most Valuable Player award.

Neither NBA spokesman Mark Broussard nor the Lakers would discuss the subject of the news conference, although the league did refer to it as an NBA Awards Announcement.

The Los Angeles Times reported last Friday that the 29-year-old Bryant had won the award. League spokesman Brian McIntyre refused to confirm or deny the report on Saturday.

"I didn't know if it was going to come in my career, but to have the moment come now is special, especially to share it with the group of guys we have here," Bryant told reporters Saturday. "We talked about [how] winning this MVP is extremely special because that means I'm doing good. I'm making my teammates better, putting them in a position to win."

Bryant, who entered the season as the league's two-time defending scoring champion, had finished as high as third in the MVP voting twice -- after the 2002-03 campaign, when he averaged 30 points for the first time, and again last year, when Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki won the award and two-time MVP Steve Nash finished second.

Bryant averaged 28.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.84 steals while playing in all 82 games despite tearing a ligament in his right pinkie finger in February. A hand specialist recommended surgery, but Bryant decided to put it off until after the Olympics this summer.

Bryant is expected to receive the MVP trophy Wednesday night from commissioner David Stern before the Lakers face the Utah Jazz in Game 2 of their best-of-seven second-round playoff series. The Lakers won the opener 109-98 on Sunday.

Bryant, second in the NBA in scoring behind Cleveland's LeBron James, would be the first member of the Lakers to win the MVP award since Shaquille O'Neal was a near-unanimous choice in 2000. Other previous Lakers to win the award dating back to 1956 when it was first presented were Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson, who won it three times each. Abdul-Jabbar also won three with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Bryant and O'Neal led the Lakers to three consecutive NBA championships, from 2000-02, and a berth in the NBA finals in 2004. The Lakers hadn't won a playoff series since then until sweeping the Denver Nuggets in the first round last month.