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Lakers' Jason Kapono is realistic about starting gig

Kobe Bryant's replacement says he expects the star with the injured wrist to be in the Lakers' lineup for their first regular-season game Christmas Day.

December 21, 2011|By Ben Bolch
  • Newly acquired Lakers forward Jason Kapono jokes around with NBA photographer Noah Graham during a photo shoot on Dec. 11. Kapono, who started in Wednesday's exhibition loss to the Clippers, doesn't expect to be in the starting lineup Christmas Day.
Newly acquired Lakers forward Jason Kapono jokes around with NBA photographer… (Alex Gallardo / Associated…)

Jason Kapono doesn't figure he will be a Lakers starter for long.

Noting Kobe Bryant's history of playing through injuries, Kapono said he expected the star shooting guard to be in the Lakers' lineup as usual on Christmas in their opener against Chicago.

"I think you'd be a fool to not think that," Kapono said Wednesday before filling in for Bryant, who sat out the Lakers' final exhibition game against the Clippers at Staples Center because of a torn ligament in his right wrist.

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"Kobe, I think he's played through everything, right? I don't think there's a healthy part of him, and he's still pretty damn good, isn't he?"

Indeed, Bryant has not missed more than nine games in a season since 2004-05 despite an assortment of injuries that might have sidelined a less rugged player.

Lakers Coach Mike Brown said "there's a chance" Bryant could play Sunday against the Bulls, but the Lakers were forced to assess contingency plans in case he was unable to go.

Rookie Andrew Goudelock and Gerald Green both played for the first time Wednesday, with Goudelock scoring nine points on three-for-eight shooting and Green going scoreless on 0-for-1 shooting. Kapono also was scoreless, and didn't take a shot.

If Bryant has to join Andrew Bynum on the bench while the center begins serving a five-game suspension for committing a flagrant foul in last season's playoffs, the Lakers could be looking at an opening-game lineup of Kapono, Devin Ebanks and Josh McRoberts in addition to mainstays Pau Gasol and Derek Fisher.

Not exactly the kind of starting five likely to spread much holiday cheer among Lakers fans.

"I don't think Vinny [Del Negro, the Clippers coach] would want to go into his first game without Chris Paul and Blake Griffin," Brown said.

Starting battle

Brown gave Ebanks the starting nod at small forward over Matt Barnes but said he had not decided which player would be the starter Sunday. Barnes had started the Lakers' exhibition opener.

"Neither guy has really separated themselves yet, so we're still kind of looking and searching," Brown said.

Ebanks scored eight points in 12 1/2 minutes. Barnes, who started the second half, had three points and was called for a flagrant foul for pushing Griffin to the floor midway through the third quarter.

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