Kobe Bryant suffered an elbow injury in the first quarter of the Los Angeles Lakers' game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on March 5 (via Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register), but was able to return and, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles, will be able to play in New Orleans tonight.
Though he is getting up there in NBA years at 34 years of age, and the bones may be a bit creakier than they were in the prime of his career, Lakers fans should still not fret over the health of their team's star scorer. Bryant has fought through injuries and played well before, and this basic stinger to his elbow is no exception.
Look at it this way. Bryant has been in the league since 1996 and has a reputation as one of the most dependable players. Currently in his 17th season, he has only failed to play a full campaign four times and has reached the 70-game plateau in all but 10 seasons, not counting ones that were shortened by a lockout.
The fact of the matter is that Bryant is going to play unless he is absolutely sure that he cannot get on the court and give his best effort, and this recent elbow injury does not look like one that is going to sideline him at all. Even if it's still bothering him for tonight's game, the five-time champion is good enough at driving the lane that he can shoot with his left hand.
Long story short, the only way Bryant does not play in this game is if the Lakers management goes crazy, knocks him out, stuffs him in a box and overnights him back to the Staples Center for Friday's game against the Toronto Raptors. Given how important he is in tonight's game against the Hornets, that's definitely not going to happen.
With that being said, watching Bryant head back to the locker room for medical attention certainly must have been a scary sight. Fortunately, it was just for a small elbow injury. It's not like it was the 2000 NBA Finals all over again (injury takes place at 2:02), when Bryant was writhing in agony on the floor with plenty of uncertainty around what happened. He got his medical treatment and returned to finish the game, and there's no reason to believe that the elbow is going to be a major problem going forward.
Thus, get ready, Lakers fans! Tonight marks the beginning of what could be another strong Los Angeles winning streak, with the Black Mamba himself leading the charge.