Kobe Bryant awaits word on shin injury, gets big-time praise from Jerry West

Tomorrow’s story today ….

NEW ORLEANS — The Lakers will learn today whether Kobe Bryant can play tonight against the New Orleans Hornets, the second stop on a three-game trip that began with the superstar guard sitting out Saturday’s 20-point loss to the Phoenix Suns.

A painful left shin injury kept him seated on the bench in a well-tailored dark blue suit, his first absence from the Lakers’ starting lineup in 139 games, dating to the final two meaningless regular-season contests of 2009-10.

In many ways, this could be the finest of Bryant’s 16 seasons, if for no other reason than he has been a rock in an ocean of change. It hasn’t hurt that he’s also the NBA’s leading scorer, averaging 28.1 points going into tonight’s game.

With longtime running mate Derek Fisher now a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder after a trade last month, Bryant has moved into a leadership role on a team that has lack consistency and cohesion at times.

Bryant’s goal of a sixth NBA championship drives him during this transitional season, with Phil Jackson retired as Lakers coach, the triangle offense no longer an option and the focal point of replacement Mike Brown centered on defense.

“Kobe Bryant is always going to be Kobe Bryant,” former Lakers player, coach and executive Jerry West told The New York Times. “He’s going to play the game differently. He’s going to approach it differently.

“I heard someone say he doesn’t enjoy the game. The hell he doesn’t. He just looks on it as war. … His greatness is taken for granted. Everyone knows how great he is, but you can’t look inside. What’s inside makes him. Forget the talent.

“He’s got something inside that no one can measure.”

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