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As usual, it's all about Kobe as Lakers' season starts Tuesday

Kobe Bryant hasn't played since Oct. 21 because of a foot injury and might not play in Lakers' opener vs. Dallas at Staples. Then again maybe he will. Who knows?

October 30, 2012|By Mike Bresnahan
  • Kobe Bryant's might not play in the Lakers' opener vs. Dallas.
Kobe Bryant's might not play in the Lakers' opener vs. Dallas. (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )

The doors to the practice facility opened Monday, revealing the latest turn on the Lakers' amusement-park ride this month.

Kobe Bryant wasn't on the court and was labeled a game-time decision for the season opener Tuesday against Dallas.

Just another day in an eminently forgettable October.

Bryant has not played or practiced since sustaining a strained right foot in an exhibition game Oct. 21. He did not talk to reporters Monday.

Opinions were divided within the Lakers organization on whether he would be able to play. Some think he'll suit up, others think he won't.

"If there is one guy that is capable of sitting out and playing a game, it's Kobe," Lakers Coach Mike Brown said. "He's extremely intelligent and he's been around the block. Him sitting might be better than him being out there every day getting banged up in practice."

On the other hand, Brown acknowledged Bryant's injury was "serious" and considered the 14-time All-Star to be more of an assistant coach these days. Bryant has been watching practices from a training table on the sideline and often makes the hissing noise he uses on the court to get teammates' attention.

"Everybody knows that's Kobe's way of calling anybody. So you've got 30 heads turning to look," Brown said. "He'll start coaching from the training table. He may coach an individual or he may have something that may help the team.

"Right now I just look at him as an assistant coach. He may not like to hear that because he doesn't want to take a big pay cut, but he's been in tune, involved with practice every day."

Bryant was injured when he tripped over Sacramento forward Thomas Robinson while cutting into the lane.

It was an eventful month, as usual around here, and it had plenty of battles — Shaq vs. Dwight, Kobe vs. Smush, Time Warner Cable vs. programming providers.

But the season is finally beginning, even if all the TV deals haven't been completed yet. The Lakers are happy just to say goodbye to the worst exhibition record (0-8) in their history.

Dwight Howard, who underwent back surgery in April, got in two warmup games in October, averaging 14 points and 10 rebounds while showing a burst his predecessor, Shaquille O'Neal, never had.

"I'm ready to play," he said. "I think all of us are ready. The popcorn and the lights come on [Tuesday]."

Steve Nash will also make his debut with the Lakers after 16 years of trying to beat them with Phoenix and Dallas.

A suddenly important debut also will be made by reserve shooting guard Jodie Meeks, who took Bryant's spot with the first team at Monday's practice. Meeks wasn't very sharp in exhibition play, averaging 5.9 points and shooting 26.7%. He was signed by the Lakers after spending last season as a part-time starter with Philadelphia.

He wasn't the only Lakers player to stumble this month.

TNT analyst Charles Barkley said that accountants, not NBA offenses, should come from Princeton, and then the Lakers proved him right in exhibition play. They averaged 85.9 points, 29th in the league, with their new Princeton offense and fumbled their way to 18.6 turnovers a game.

Metta World Peace came back in great shape but shot only 38.4% this month despite claiming to have worked on his outside touch during the off-season. The Lakers will need more than that from him.

Based entirely on exhibition play, which can be a dangerous supposition, Antawn Jamison and Meeks haven't provided the bench boost the Lakers desire. Jamison was 10th on the team in scoring (4.4 points a game) while shooting 28.9%.

It all comes back, however, to Bryant. It often does.

He was in a dour mood when he last spoke with reporters almost a week ago, saying he was "pretty sore."

"It's always frustrating to have these freak accidents," he said at the time. "It always upsets me."

Bryant, 34, was nagged by three injuries this month — right foot, right shoulder, and right foot again (different area) — but looked solid when he played, averaging 20.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists in only 26.8 minutes a game.

The Lakers hope he can fight off gravity and age this season. They might not have a choice in the season opener.

"If he can't go [Tuesday] night, we'll get the job done without him," Pau Gasol said.

Mavericks hurting too

Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki will miss the game because of recent knee surgery and center Chris Kaman is out because of a strained calf.

The Mavericks were so desperate they signed NBA journeyman Eddy Curry last week and might start him at center against the Lakers.

"We can't relax because a really good player is not out there with his team," Gasol said. "They have other versatile players. They have young players that are hungry."

Hill sidelined again

Lakers reserve center Jordan Hill sat out Monday's practice because of back soreness but Brown said he would probably play Tuesday. Hill missed most of the exhibition season because of a herniated disk.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan

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