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Kobe Bryant will play through the pain

Dislocated finger won't keep him from playing against the Clippers on Wednesday.

January 21, 2009|Mike Bresnahan

There have been knee injuries that required surgery, severely sprained ankles that took weeks to recover, and a bout with plantar fasciitis, a foot condition as ugly and painful as its name implies.

But nothing bothered Kobe Bryant as much as the dislocated finger he suffered in the Lakers' victory Monday over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Bryant said the pain in the ring finger of his right hand was "probably the most I'd ever played with," and his face contorted Tuesday afternoon as he recounted his unsuccessful attempt to steal the ball from LeBron James.

Bryant did not practice Tuesday and he was wearing a splint made of plastic, aluminum and foam. When asked if he would play tonight against the Clippers, he indicated in the affirmative, in his own way.

"What do you think?" he said.

Bryant will take part in this morning's shoot-around and determine if he needs to adjust his shot or his ballhandling to account for the discomfort. He also might experience soreness in the finger on defense, be it by hand-checking players, blocking shots or trying for steals.

"He's going to have an adjustment period to go through," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "These [injuries] are things that you just don't want to do anything with that hand, let alone play basketball or pound the ball or dribble it or shoot it. It's a lot of difficulty, but it's a trademark of who Kobe is."

Said Bryant: "I'm not concerned about it. I'll figure it out."

Bryant, who also has ligament and tendon damage that typically comes with a dislocated finger, will have his right ring and pinkie fingers taped together tonight, a precaution he might have to endure the rest of the season.

"The way it hurts, I wouldn't doubt it," Bryant said.

If it seems to be a familiar injury, it is.

Bryant suffered a torn ligament in his right pinkie last season and played with two fingers taped together for months after the fact.

His injury from Monday's game was more painful than the one from last season, Bryant said, though it could have been worse.

"It's not fractured or anything like that. I'm happy," he said. "I just made a stab at the ball and I think I caught it at the right angle. I just felt it slide out of place. At that point, I felt like I had done something much worse than what actually happened."

After the injury, which occurred less than two minutes into the game, Bryant went over to the sideline, where trainer Gary Vitti popped the finger back into place.

"It brought me down to a knee," he said. "It was excruciating pain."

Bryant kept playing after a timeout and finished with 20 points, 12 assists and six rebounds in almost 41 minutes of the Lakers' 105-88 victory.

Bynum the enforcer?

Center Andrew Bynum racked up two hard fouls in the fourth quarter against Cleveland, though he wasn't bragging about it a day later.

Neither foul was flagrant, but James sent a harsh stare at Bynum after getting fouled on a drive. Bynum missed the look because he had already turned his back to walk toward the lane and line up for James' free throws.

A bit later, Bynum fouled Anderson Varejao on a shot down low.

"I'm not an enforcer," Bynum said Tuesday. "I just went out there and didn't want to give up a layup at that particular point in the game. I didn't want them to get any momentum. I didn't do it intentionally."

Lakers-Cavaliers review

In the four-team race for the league's best record, the Lakers made the most recent headway after beating Cleveland.

"To me it showed that the Lakers are a better team," TNT analyst Kenny Smith said. "Overall, they have better players, better personnel, better chemistry and a deeper bench, especially with [Cleveland's] Delonte West out. I just thought that overall . . . Kobe Bryant has better guys around him than LeBron James."

Orlando (33-8) has the league's best record, though the Lakers (32-8), Cleveland (31-8) and Boston (34-9) are mere percentage points behind the Magic.

James seemed to lament the Cavaliers' failure to hold on to their 50-49 halftime lead.

"We had some open looks that we couldn't knock down, and against a team like the Lakers, if you don't knock down shots, they can pull away because of how good they are offensively," James said.

Injuries, injuries

Lakers reserve guard Jordan Farmar might practice Friday or Saturday and could be available to play Sunday against San Antonio.

Farmar, who is averaging 7.9 points and 2.2 assists a game, has sat out 15 games because of torn cartilage in his left knee.

Sasha Vujacic suffered a sprained right ankle against Cleveland, but he practiced Tuesday and is expected to play tonight.


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