Work in Sports
Bryant 'probably' will play Game 4
Posted: Tuesday June 13, 2000 11:55 AM
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Kobe Bryant, his crutches gone, winced as he stepped off the team bus.
He arrived at Conseco Fieldhouse on Monday, acknowledging his ankle was stiff and painful, but optimistic of playing Wednesday night in Game 4 of the NBA Finals.
"I don't know," he said. "Probably."
After the Los Angeles Lakers finished their interviews, Bryant walked with a barely noticeable limp. He said both sides of his ankle are stiff, and he described the pain as feeling as if "your foot is locked."
The Lakers, coming off a 100-91 loss, lead the Indiana Pacers 2-1 entering Game 4 of the best-of-seven series. A return of Bryant at even close to full strength would certainly be welcome for them.
"It will depend on if I can benefit the team," Bryant said. "A lot of my game is based on speed and cutting and getting guys open shots, you know, kind of penetrating the ball down guys' throats. But we'll see what happens."
Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who nixed Bryant's thoughts of playing Game 3, said he didn't know if the 21-year-old star would even be able to stand and shoot Monday.
"We had hoped that would be the course of action for today, and maybe a practice tomorrow, if things progress," Jackson said.
Neither the Lakers nor Pacers practiced Monday.
Bryant hoped to play Sunday night, approaching Jackson with his plans about a half hour before tipoff. The coach vetoed the idea when Bryant was in pain after making lateral slides.
"You know, the doctors put me through some tests, see how the ankle felt," said Bryant, who was injured when he came down on Jalen Rose's foot after making a jumper in the first quarter of Game 2 in Los Angeles on Friday night. "They were shocked at how much strength I had in the foot. ... But Phil made the final call."
And then, the Lakers lost their first game in the finals to drop to 3-5 on the road in the playoffs. Bryant stayed in the locker room receiving treatment.
"I watched the game on TV, and screamed at the TV as usual," Bryant said. "But, you know, I think it was the best decision."
Bryant's absence was felt at both ends of the court. Nobody stepped up on offense to support Shaquille O'Neal, and the defense was different without him.
"He's a great one-on-one defender, and him being out changed their matchups," Rose said.
O'Neal said the Lakers got away from their triangle offense without Bryant.
"We have to review the film and get back to reviewing the triangle," O'Neal said. "Kobe's like a creator. He can get to the hole and do a lot of slashing and create shots for himself."
And that often allows O'Neal to dominate the middle more easily.
Brian Shaw, who started in Bryant's place in Game 3, scored only six points on 3-of-10 shooting.
"There is a question about Kobe coming back," Jackson said. "I don't know exactly his response. Yesterday, with the kind of action that he created, you know, he stiffened overnight.
"He worked a little bit during the day twice to see if he couldn't come back. There was still quite a bit of pain in the joint today. We'll just have to wait and see."