Bryant sits out against Nuggets

DENVER -- Lakers guard Kobe Bryant sat out Thursday's 98-96 loss to the Nuggets. Sasha Vujacic started in his place.

Los Angeles head coach Phil Jackson, speaking before the game about Cleveland resting LeBron James, said that he would consider resting his star players down the stretch as well. The official reason for resting Bryant on Thursday was swelling in his right knee.

"That's been on and off all year," Jackson said about Bryant's right knee after the game. "That's just natural [and] what happens with players as they go into this age and play. I don't think it's out of the ordinary that he can't control. We want to get it as healthy as possible."

Jackson said the decision to sit was Bryant's choice and it's unlikely that the 12-time All-Star will play Friday against Minnesota.

"I really don't anticipate it, but I'll let him make that decision," Jackson said. "He knows exactly what he has to do to get himself ready."

The Lakers are now 4-2 on the season without Bryant, with both losses coming on last-second missed shots by Derek Fisher.

The former MVP who is playing with a fractured index finger on his shooting hand shot just 13-for-47 in the Lakers previous two games.

"I don't think the finger's an issue," Jackson said before the game. "I think more or less it's probably the legs more than anything else. I think it's the elevation in his shots and the type of shots he's been forced to take."

Jackson said that he told Bryant on Tuesday that the most important thing was for his legs to be fresh for the postseason.

The coach refuted that Bryant's legs were simply ailing him as a result of a lingering ankle issue.

"I think it's more than that," Jackson said. "I think it's more than just that ankle, although that's bothered him a little bit."