Tomorrow’s notebook today …
SAN ANTONIO — Kobe Bryant eased off the training table at one end of the recreation center gym, limped past a group of reporters, said a few “Wassups,” and walked outside to talk to a couple of die-hard Lakers fans waiting for autographs in the hot Texas sun.
The Lakers defeated the New Orleans Hornets without the league’s leading scorer Monday and lost Saturday to the Phoenix Suns without him. They said he’s improving, but not enough to allow him to play tonight against the San Antonio Spurs.
Officially, Bryant’s status for tonight’s game remains day-to-day because of a sore left shin. Also officially, the Lakers don’t mind if he doesn’t play, sitting out for a third consecutive game because of a condition called tenosynovitis.
“The good part about it is we have a couple more shots at them,” Lakers coach Mike Brown said of facing the Spurs tonight and twice more in the next 10 days. “It’s OK that it’s taking time for him to get (his shin) right.”
The Lakers play the Spurs tonight and then Tuesday at Staples Center and once more on April 20 in San Antonio after not playing them once during the first 58 games of the lockout-shortened 66-game season.
“That is a little weird,” Brown said.
Bryant, who was hurt when he was kicked in the shin in the first quarter of the Lakers’ victory March 31 over the Hornets, acted as cheerleader and assistant coach while seated on the bench during the first two games on this three-game trip.
“I felt like he really brought the group closer together because he was so engaged with what we had going on,” Brown said. “He was always in the mix and when you see your leader in the mix, it makes everyone else want to be a part of it, too.”
Bryant is averaging 28.1 points, tops in the NBA.
The pupil meets the professor when Brown and the Lakers face Gregg Popovich and the Spurs. Brown served as an assistant on Popovich’s staff from 2000-03, and considers him to be his closest friend in coaching.
“He still helps me out,” Brown said. “He knows people very well.”
In addition to catching up with his mentor, Brown planned a family reunion of sorts with his parents and sisters and their families, who call San Antonio home. Actually, they moved to town after Brown left to be an assistant with the Indiana Pacers.
Asked whether he expected his friendship with Popovich to be put on hold for tonight’s game, Brown smiled, laughed and then said, “He said he’s going to kick my behind. He said he hopes everything falls apart when we play them.”
Brown lost to Popovich in the 2007 NBA Finals, when the Cleveland Cavaliers got smoked by the Spurs in four games. A laughing Brown said the loss did nothing to test their friendship because “he just kicked my behind.”
A sore left shoulder and a jammed right index finger couldn’t prevent point guard Ramon Sessions from having one of his finest all-around games Monday against the Hornets since his March 15 trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Sessions scored 17 points on 5-for-9 shooting, including a driving two-handed dunk in the third quarter and a key 3-pointer in the fourth, and added six rebounds and six assists. He also had only two turnovers in 32:17.
He figures to face a big challenge from San Antonio’s Tony Parker tonight.
“Just got to grind it out and get ready for the playoffs,” Sessions said of playing with the injuries. “What have we got? Nine or 10 games left?”
Actually, it’s only eight.