Kobe Bryant is likely to miss a seventh straight game for the Lakers Wednesday… (Chris Graythen / Getty Images…)
Most times, Lakers Coach Mike Brown pledges to simply look at the game ahead. It's the oldest cliche in the book, but he's not using that approach in assessing Kobe Bryant's left shin injury. Brown said Bryant would "most likely not" suit up Wednesday when the Lakers play at Golden State.
He is missing his sixth consecutive game Tuesday against the San Antonio Spurs, and the Lakers appear in no rush to have him return.
"We're taking our time with it," Brown said. "We want to make sure that it's right. He's made progress and I've seen the progress he's made and we're happy with the progress that he's made. It's just a matter of us wanting to be cautious to make sure he's full strength when he does come back and doesn't go into the playoffs with nicks and bruises."
Bryant proved Friday that he could walk pain free. He's spent some time this week working on his shooting and one-on-one drills. But he must prove to the training staff that he can run and then jump without pain.
There's also an ulterior motive to Brown's suddenly exercising patience with Bryant after heavily leaning on his league-leading 28 points per game and playing him 38.1 minutes, fourth highest in the NBA. The Lakers (39-22) have only a one-game lead over the Clippers (38-23) for third place in the Western Conference with five games remaining. But Brown says he puts more value on ensuring health than on playoff seeding.
"That's what we've been alluding to the whole time," Brown said. "At this point of the season and the minutes we played him and the various minutes we had, we're taking a little bit of time before going into hopefully a long playoff run."
This created suspicions that Brown's simply adopting a practice Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich adopted in resting star players Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker for significant minutes and even complete games. But Brown insisted he wasn't following his mentor, saying, "He's a lot smarter than me. I wish I could say I was doing that. I'm trying to rest [Bryant] some, but he is injured."
Popovich said he plans to play his big three against the Lakers.
"They were ready to go last time we played but we got humiliated," Popovich said, referring to the Lakers' double-digit win last week over San Antonio. "So I figured we should at least have them all."
Though the Spurs (43-16) are tied with Oklahoma City (44-17) for first place, Popovich still puts higher stock in health than playoff rankings. After all, the Spurs fell to the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the 2011 playoffs as a top-seeded team.
'You don't want to win a battle," Popovich said, "but lose the war."
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