Kobe Bryant will guard Russell Westbrook when the Lakers play Oklahoma… (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles…)
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Guarding Russell Westbrook is a tough assignment for any player any day. Especially if it's your third game back from a torn Achilles' tendon.
Kobe Bryant will try to stay with one of the NBA's fastest point guards Friday night when the Lakers play Oklahoma City.
"I trust Kobe...." Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni said. "It doesn't mean [the match-up] is going to stay that way all the time, but Kobe will do a good job. He'll surprise us."
Bryant is pressed into Westbrook duty because all three Lakers point guards are injured -- Steve Blake for six weeks because of a torn elbow ligament, Steve Nash indefinitely because of nerve damage in his back and Jordan Farmar until at least next week because of a torn hamstring.
Jodie Meeks could also see time on Westbrook, whose numbers are slightly down after two knee procedures this year. He is averaging 21.2 points and 6.4 assists while shooting only 41.2%.
Bryant has been only average since returning from his Achilles injury. He had nine points on two-for-nine shooting with eight turnovers in his season debut last Sunday against Toronto. He was better two days later, scoring 20 points on six-for-11 shooting with three turnovers against Phoenix.
Bryant will remain on a limited-minutes schedule as the Lakers open a four-game trip over only five nights.
"He's only playing 24 to 28 minutes," D'Antoni said. "We do want to be a little careful."
D'Antoni is making two changes in the starting lineup, inserting Jordan Hill and Wesley Johnson in place of Robert Sacre and Shawne Williams.
"Just trying to pack the paint up a little bit, trying to get a little bit more of a defensive presence inside," D'Antoni said.
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First up for 'point guard' Kobe Bryant? Russell Westbrook