Bryant sits out with injured left shin
Lakers longtime trainer Gary Vitti said just before tipoff he decided to put Bryant's left foot in a protective boot to rest the injury.
"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 a boot."
The trainer said there is no timetable for Bryant's return. Bryant is to be re-evaluated on Monday.
Coach Mike Brown said he didn't find out Bryant wasn't going to be able to go until just before tipoff.
"Gary came to me and said that Kobe is out," Brown said. "I said `OK."'
Bryant did not talk to reporters after the game, a 125-105 loss.
"Whether Kobe is here or not the way I look at it is, we shoot 49 percent and score 105 points, we scored 100 and something last night, we shoot 40 something percent last night and we lose the game," Brown said. "Earlier in the year, if you tell me we could get to 105, 106 points in a game, at that percentage we win. I am going to Vegas and betting on that one. Our problems are defensive."
Ramon Sessions started in place of Bryant and finished with 11 points and nine assists.
Bryant, the NBA's leading scorer at 28.1 points per game, was limping noticeably in the late stages of the Lakers' home loss to Houston on Friday night. He was kicked in the shin last a week ago against New Orleans.
The injury is called tenosynovitis, inflammation of a sheath that surrounds a tendon. The boot will keep the sheath in place and allow the inflammation "to calm down," Vitti said.
Bryant was 8 for 20 from the field but made all 11 of his free throws to score 28 points against the Rockets. The soreness hasn't seemed to affect his scoring. In the four games since he was hurt, he has had 40, 24, 31 and 28 points in the last four games, the first three of them Lakers victories.
The 33-year-old perennial All-Star had played in all 56 games this season, averaging 38.4 minutes, fourth-most in the NBA. The Lakers are a half-game ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers in the Pacific Division. He played in all 82 games last season.
The game against the Suns was the first of a three-game road trip, with later stops at New Orleans on Monday and a critical showdown with San Antonio on Wednesday.
Bryant averaged 38.5 points in three games against Phoenix this season, two of them Los Angeles wins.
Vitti described the area that is injured as a sheath, such as the one that would hold a knife, with the tendon surrounded by it.
Bryant has had to adjust this season to the arrival of a new coach in Mike Brown following the retirement of Phil Jackson, who coached the Lakers to five NBA titles. Earlier this season, Bryant became the youngest player in NBA history to reach 29,000 points. He is fifth on the NBA's career scoring list, behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain.
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