Lakers guard Kobe Bryant works against Heat forward Shane Battier on Sunday… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
Under the blazing lights at Staples Center, Kobe Bryant is putting on a show of epic proportions.
The Lakers' 93-83 victory Sunday over the Miami Heat marked the third time he dropped at least 30 points since donning a plastic mask, nursing a tender nose and playing through pain in his neck. His 33 points a week after Dwyane Wade's hard foul in the NBA All-Star game gave him a concussion and a broken nose came full circle on a night that Wade went only seven-of-17 from the field. The effort continued to convince Lakers Coach Mike Brown and Bryant's teammates alike that his latest obstacle only further validates Bryant's ability to play through injuries.
But this one is different for Bryant.
"In terms of injuries," he said, "this has been the one that I've really had to adjust my lifestyle to."
The first adjustment involved just getting cleared to play. The NBA ruled last December that players must pass a series of medical tests and remain asymptomatic for at least 24 hours before they could return to the lineup after a concussion. So Bryant recalled driving around "all over the place" so he could complete a series of exercises, including neurological, treadmill, bicycle and agility tests. He then completed a game of two-on-two and then has made five visits to neurologist Vern Williams to prove he remains asymptomatic.
That's just to play.
Now Bryant has to ensure he remains prolific in his play too. He missed all of last week's practices to receive neck treatment. As eager as he is to take off the plastic mask, Bryant recalled getting hit in the face too many times to make him comfortable removing it.
In his quiet moments, Bryant resorts to something that sounds far from appealing. "The past whatever days, it's just been quiet, lights off, that sort of thing," Bryant said. "It's just kind of letting it bring rest as much as possible."
But as he's proved time and time again, so far it's worked.
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