INDIANAPOLIS — Kobe Bryant’s trained to outwill anything if he simply puts his mind to it.
So even if the Lakers considered his return “indefinite” after severely spraining his left ankle in the team’s loss Wednesday against Atlanta, Bryant wouldn’t allow that grim prognosis to dictate his reality.
But even an entire day Thursday and a 25 pre-game workout on Friday wouldn’t be enough for Bryant to play in much of the Lakers’ 99-93 win Friday over the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Bryant played for the entire first quarter, missing all four of his field goal attempts and showing tentativeness on defense.
“It was really stiff,” Bryant said. “It continued to swell. I couldn’t put any weight on it so I had to call it a night.”
What’s Bryant’s outlook for when the Lakers (35-32) play Sunday against the Sacramento Kings at Staples Center?
“I don’t know man,” he said. “I’m thinking about tonight, dude”
Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni has deferred to Bryant on how he handles his injury.
After Bryant received medical clearance to play, D’Antoni allowed Bryant to choose whether he’d suit up. D’Antoni abided to Bryant’s wishes to take him out of the first quarter. D’Antoni said he will allow Bryant to choose whether he will play or rest in the next week, which includes games Sunday (vs. Sacramento), Monday (at Phoenix) and Friday (vs. Washington).
But it’s clear D’Antoni doesn’t believe Bryant should rush back onto the court just for the sake of doing so.
“He could take a day off or two,” D’Antoni said. “It might help him. But that’s on him.”
It’s still an accomplishment that Bryant appeared on the court at all.
Bryant considered his latest injury to be the most painful since the 2000 NBA Finals when he suffered an ankle injury after Jalen Rose admittedly placed in his foot where Bryant would land after shooting. The injury sidelined him for most of Game 2 and all of Game 3. But Bryant returned with clutch performances in Games 4 (28 points) and Game 6 (26 points).
Bryant spent most of the Lakers’ day off Thursday icing his severely sprained left ankle and receiving compression therapy to reduce swelling, while watching the movies, “Django Unchained, ” Zero Dark Thirty” and “This is Forty.” He described his ankle on Twitter as “still very swollen,” confirmed by Instagram photos that made his ankle appear as if it had a tennis ball attached to it.
But after having more treatment Friday during morning shootaround, Bryant went through a 25-minute workout hours before tipoff. He sensed the ankle “improved a lot” after seeing he could shoot while standing still.
“I told them I don’t know how much I have,” Bryant said. “But whatever I have, I’m going to give you. That’s all my message was.”
But it clearly wasn’t enough. Bryant said his ankle didn’t turn loose as he ran up and down the floor. So Bryant opted to shut his body down in hopes he can give more in future games.
“I couldn’t post,” Bryant said. “I couldn’t back the guy down. I couldn’t move defensively. I just couldn’t put any pressure on it.”
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