It's a testament to the relative health this season of the Lakers- and certainly Kobe Bryant- that 24's ailing left ankle gets it's own "watch," despite playing Monday night against Orlando. As it was Wednesday, Bryant neither practiced nor spoke to the media Thursday afternoon, but another happy report on his condition was delivered by Phil Jackson. Certainly there's no reason to believe Bryant won't be ready Friday night against the Timberwolves.
“I think there’s progress, but we didn’t have him on the court today. He stayed off it," Jackson said of Kobe. "We’ll just see. We’ll see how it is tomorrow, and go from there. He says it’s got strength. He’s got good strength in his ankle. It’s still swollen quite a bit, but he has the strength in it that he feels he can play.”
As recently as last season, it was reasonable to question if Kobe's dedication to suiting up come hell or high water, whether because of the immense pride he takes in playing through pain or his belief he owes it to fans to play if at all possible, clouded his big picture judgment. Then he showed recognition of the whole discretion/valor thing by sitting himself down. Like a lot of people, it was something I wasn't sure Bryant would ever do, short of an injury leaving him on an operating table or encased in plaster. (In the case of the latter, I figured he'd compete anyway, just like Cowboy Bob Orton.) The '09-'10 Lakers, though, had a comfortable lead in the Western Conference. The context is different this season because the Lakers aren't settled in their playoff seeding. Wins and losses now could have a significant impact on how far L.A. goes this spring, adding more pressure on Bryant to play.
Still, Jackson seemed very comfortable with Kobe's judgment, as he should. Jackson's concern was more with Bryant's ability to work himself back to 100 percent (or as close as possible) and avoid what he called "residual things."
"There’s always residual things that come off of this, and manifest themselves later on. We just want to be careful with it," he said. "The injury itself has other aspects to it than just the initial sprain. There could be some things that develop in the Achilles tendon, and the whole area becomes a traumatized area a little bit. So it’s not just the strength sometimes, but the swelling and the other stuff that goes into it.”
In other injury news, Andrew Bynum reminded us his surgically repaired right knee still isn't completely healthy, despite the incredible increase in his productivity since the All-Star break. He's still on anti-inflammatory medication (one more thing Bynum and I have in common, as if there weren't enough already) and has "a little bit fluid" in his knee. Bynum said he hopes to lose some weight heading into the postseason, in an effort to take some strain off his joints.
Click below for more from Jackson, on Bryant's ankle, plus his take on L.A. fans following the GQ report listing Lakers loyalists as the 15th worst in American sports. Certainly Ron Artest had an interesting take.
More from Jackson on Kobe's ankle, plus some suggestions as to why the Lakers have had success this season containing Kevin Love:
Jackson, on Lakers fans: