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Kobe Bryant's wrist injury leaves his status for Lakers' opener in doubt

Bryant has a torn ligament in his right wrist and is considered day-to-day by the team. Lakers play host to Chicago on Sunday.

December 21, 2011|By Mike Bresnahan
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As if there hadn't been enough chaos this month for the Lakers ...

Kobe Bryant sustained a torn ligament in his right wrist, simultaneously clouding his capacity to score and the Lakers' ability to win.

Bryant planned to endure the discomfort instead of opting for surgery that would dim his chances of playing an already abbreviated 66-game season. He is officially listed as day-to-day by the team.

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He did not play in the Clippers' 108-103 exhibition victory Wednesday at Staples Center. Lakers officials were tight-lipped about his availability for the season opener Sunday against Chicago, but a person familiar with the situation said Bryant would give it a shot.

Before the game Wednesday, he lofted a few left-handed three-point attempts, making one. He was initially injured after trying to break his fall Monday in an exhibition against the Clippers. He practiced with the team Tuesday, took about four shots with his left hand, and left the court to get treatment on the wrist.

An MRI exam Wednesday confirmed a tear of the lunotriquetral ligament, which stabilizes two of the smaller bones on the outer part of the wrist. Bryant would use a padded device on the wrist if he played Sunday. He wore one with Velcro as he sat on the end of the Lakers' bench Wednesday.

Bryant declined to talked to reporters, but longtime teammate Luke Walton was optimistic about his recovery.

"He plays through injuries that most people don't," Walton said. "I did see his wrist and it looked like Professor Klump because it was so swollen. But I think he'll be ready by Sunday."

Said Lakers center Andrew Bynum: "It's tough for him to miss a game, so I think he'll be up and ready to go."

The ligament can eventually heal without surgery, but the process will be lengthy if the wrist gets hit.

"Without being privy to the MRI, these types of injuries can take anywhere from several days to several weeks to heal completely," said Keith Feder, a Manhattan Beach sports-medicine specialist. "But depending on the pain level, and with support, the athlete could play."

The status of Bryant's wrist could become reminiscent of his finger injury in 2009-10. He sustained a fracture in his right index finger six weeks into the season and continued to play, though it hurt for several minutes whenever it was slapped in a game.

The Lakers eventually won the championship that season. Bryant was the NBA Finals' most valuable player.

The Lakers begin the season against Chicago at Staples Center, part of a back-to-back-to-back situation that also includes a Monday game at Sacramento and a Tuesday home game against Utah.

Jason Kapono, a small forward most of his career, was scoreless after starting at shooting guard Wednesday.

The Lakers played pretty well without Bryant thanks primarily to Bynum, who finished with 26 points and 11 rebounds two days after saying he got "heavily winded" in the exhibition opener.

Steve Blake had 20 points and made five of seven shots from three-point range.

The Clippers weren't nearly as enthralling and dominant as in their 114-95 victory Monday.

The Lakers were within three with 45 seconds left, but Metta World Peace had his shot blocked by DeAndre Jordan. Then Matt Barnes was called for an offensive foul. Then World Peace missed a three-point attempt.

Blake Griffin had 30 points, six rebounds and seven assists for the Clippers. Chris Paul had seven points and 10 assists. Caron Butler and Mo Williams each had 16 points.

In the third quarter, as the Clippers went on a 14-0 run, a fan held up a "Get Well Soon Kobe" sign.

The Lakers could have used Bryant on Wednesday. They'll definitely need him Sunday.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan

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