Bryant suffered a concussion after Dwyane Wade delivered a hard foul as the Lakers guard drove into the lane during the 2012 NBA All-Star game. Harden suffered a concussion after Lakers forward Metta World Peace struck him with an elbow to his head during the Lakers' 120-114 double overtime victory Sunday against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
So when Bryant stresses that Harden's health is "really the important thing," he's not just saying it to deflect endless scrutiny on World Peace and his likely suspension. He's already done plenty of that.
Bryant admitted he watched the replay: "I saw what you guys saw." He grew irritated when asked if World Peace should be suspended: "Aren't you guys sick and tired of talking about this....?" He sneered when a reporter relayed that some believe World Peace should change his name back to Ron Artest: "It's his legal name. What the hell do you want me to do about it?"
Bryant's also stressing Harden's injury because he relates to what he just experienced.
"It's a bear," Bryant said after practice Tuesday at the Lakers' facility in El Segundo. "You have to live pretty much in hibernation, lights off, TV off, the whole thing. It's crazy."
Still, the circumstances remained different.
Bryant suffered a broken nose, whiplash in his neck and a concussion from Wade's hard foul. But it hardly appeared Bryant would feel such pain considering he simply walked over to the sideline to stop his nose from bleeding. Bryant then played the rest of the game. Harden, however, immediately fell after getting elbowed. Although he returned to the bench after halftime, Harden immediately went back to the locker room and was soon diagnosed with a concussion.
Harden participated in some drills during Tuesday's shoot-around, reports the Oklahoman's John Rohde, but he won't suit up tonight against Sacramento. The Thunder will soon find out if they can absorb the absence of a Sixth Man of the Year candidate who's averaging 16.8 points on 49.1% shooting in 31.4 minutes per game.
Regardless of Bryant's pain level, he didn't miss a game. Bryant, while wearing a plastic mask, went on a four-game tear in which he scored at least 30 points and showed he could still lead the Lakers. Bryant may have made it look easy, but the process proved ugly.
"I couldn't go to the movies and my head was throbbing a month after it hurt," Bryant said. "It's something that lingers around a little bit."
Returning after a concussion doesn't hinge on the player or team. The NBA adopted a policy this past December that requires players to remain symptom-free for 24 hours and to successfully complete a series of tests. Those include neurological, bike, treadmill, conditioning and basketball exams, and an independent neurologist has to clear the player before he returns to the court.
It remains to be seen to what degree the circumstances surrounding their respective concussions are different.
As Bryant awaits the news on World Peace's pending suspension, he's at least relieved that Harden tweeted he's making progress.
"James from what I hear is OK," Bryant said. "That's really the important thing, that nothing serious happened."