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Kobe Bryant, stiff and sore, makes an abrupt exit after Lakers' win

The All-Star guard sustains a neck injury during a 106-98 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

March 20, 2011|By Broderick Turner
  • Lakers guard Kobe Bryant puts up a shot while be guarded by Minnesota guard Martell Webster, left, and center Darko Milicic during the second half of the Lakers' 106-98 victory Friday at Staples Center.
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant puts up a shot while be guarded by Minnesota guard… (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles…)

About an hour after the game and some 30 minutes after all his Lakers teammates had departed the locker room Friday night, Kobe Bryant eased toward his stall wearing all black.

He talked to the media for roughly 2 ½ minutes about his sprained left ankle and sore neck.

Then toward the end of his media session, Bryant cursed when asked how serious his neck injury was.

It was impossible to say if he was upset with the media for detaining him, for asking questions about his mounting injuries or at Minnesota's Martell Webster for delivering the telling blow to Bryant's neck.

Bryant held his neck while talking to the media, often times flexing, at times looking dazed.

He maintained that he will play on Sunday against the Portland Trail Blazers – regardless of injured ankle or sore neck.

"I'll be ready for sure," Bryant said. "I promise you that. I'll be more than ready."

Bryant was asked what had put him on edge.

"Don't worry about it," Bryant said. "I'll be ready to go on Sunday. Period."

Bryant then walked away from the media, seemignly upset, still limping while flexing his neck.

Bryant was going for a steal when his neck was injured.

Webster came through with his shot, his left shoulder hitting Bryant in the neck.

Bryant fell to the court hard with 5:57 left, staying down for awhile until Lakers trainer Gary Vitti came onto the court.

"My neck snapped back," Bryant said. "My neck is pretty stiff right now."

It was a tough night for Bryant.

He missed six shots to open the game.

He finished with 18 points, but was just six-for-17 shooting from the field.

"I just had to get my rhythm, really," Bryant said. "I didn't practice for the last three days or shoot or do anything. I kind of had Bambi legs out there a little bit. [I was] just trying to get my rhythm down."

Bryant wasn't on the court for the start of the second half. Shannon Brown started in his place.

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said Bryant was "detained," but didn't explain any further.

Bryant maintained that he was getting treatment on his ankle.

"I wanted to make sure I got a good stretch," Bryant said.

It was clear that Bryant wasn't himself on defense.

His defensive assignment, Minnesota rookie guard Wes Johnson, scored a season-high 29 points.

"He got lost on Johnson a number of times and Johnson took advantage of it," Jackson said. "So I think that there were some things there that allowed him not to be as quick as he'd like to be."

The Lakers will practice Saturday before they play Portland on Sunday at 6:30 p.m.

Jackson was asked if he would scale back Bryant's minutes.

"I'm sure he'll say no," Jackson said. "But we'll definitely talk about it and see exactly how he's doing and if there's anything bothering him about [Friday night's] game."

broderick.turner@latimes.com

twitter.com/BA_Turner

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