NEW ORLEANS — Kobe Bryant will get as long as he needs to get his sore left shin right, even if it means the Lakers slip a place or two in the Western Conference standings, coach Mike Brown said Monday morning.
Bryant wasn’t fit to play in Monday night’s game against the New Orleans Hornets. His streak of consecutive games ended at 138 when he sat out the Lakers’ 20-point loss Saturday to the Phoenix Suns.
Brown couldn’t say when Bryant, the league’s leading scorer with an average of 28.1 points, would be sound enough to play. The Lakers conclude their three-game trip Wednesday against the Spurs in San Antonio.
“I’d rather he’d be fresh going into the playoffs and us being fourth or fifth than him hurting or dinged up going into the playoffs and we’re third,” Brown said. “If we play the right way, whether Kobe’s playing or not, we should still be OK or give ourselves a chance to still get that third seed.”
Bryant declined an interview request and didn’t speak to reporters before or after the Lakers’ 125-105 loss to the Suns. The Lakers didn’t practice Sunday, but held an extended shootaround Monday morning at the New Orleans Arena.
“As crazy as this sounds, I think it’s good,” Brown said of resting Bryant with nine games remaining in the lockout-shortened 66-game season. “I’m more than OK with it. That’s why you have 12, 13, 14 guys on your team.
“I would rather have Kobe than not. Is that clear? It’s good for him to rest. It’s good for him to have some time off and get his body right and get this injury right, especially at this point in the season. I don’t see anything wrong with it.”
Brown said he would give Devin Ebanks a second consecutive start in Bryant’s place. Ebanks scored a career-best 12 points Saturday, making 6 of 11 shots and grabbing four rebounds in 32 minutes, 12 seconds in only his 15th game in 2011-12.
Bryant was injured when he was kicked in the left shin during the Lakers’ victory March 31 over the Hornets at Staples Center. He is suffering from tenosynovitis, an inflammation of the sheath that surrounds a tendon in his left shin.
There is no timetable for his return to the starting lineup, according to Brown.
“It’s not the end of the world if he needs another game,” Brown said. “I don’t need to second-guess this one at this time.”
“These guys have so many division titles,” he added when asked about winning a fifth consecutive Pacific Division championship. “I don’t think they know how many they have. They don’t care about that. If you win it, great, if you don’t, let’s go play.”