PHOENIX — Superstar guard Kobe Bryant could not play in Saturday night’s game against the Phoenix Suns because of a left shin injury suffered when he was kicked accidentally during the Lakers’ victory last Saturday over the New Orleans Hornets.
Devin Ebanks started in Bryant’s place, his first start since the fourth game of the season and only his 15th appearance in 2011-12.
Bryant is suffering from tenosynovitis, an inflammation of the tendon sheath in his shin, according to athletic trainer Gary Vitti. Bryant will be re-evaluated Monday when the Lakers’ three-game trip continues in New Orleans.
“If you put your hand on his shin, you can actually feel it grinding. It’s very painful,” Vitti said. “He’s been playing with this and it’s not getting any better. Really, the only way to stop it is to shut him down. That’s why I put him in the boot.”
Bryant has been wearing a protective boot off the court since Wednesday in order to minimize the pain caused whenever he flexes his left foot, which irritates the tendon sheath. He can’t wear the boot during games, of course.
“You put him in the boot, he comes out of it and he feels better and he plays and then we’re back to square one,” said Vitti, who added that there is no timetable for Bryant’s return to the active roster.
The Lakers play Monday in New Orleans and Wednesday in San Antonio.
Bryant had played in all 56 games until Saturday and all 82 last season. He limped noticeably during the Lakers’ loss Friday to the Houston Rockets, but still managed to reach his season average of 28 points. He played 36 minutes, 56 seconds.
He did not miss a game in 2011-12 despite suffering a torn ligament in his right wrist after a fall during the Lakers’ first exhibition game Dec. 19 against the Clippers. He is averaging a league-leading 28.1 points on 43 percent shooting.