Kobe Bryant is a game-time decision for the Los Angeles Lakers’ contest against the Indiana Pacers on Friday night, but it would do the team more harm than good if the Black Mamba prematurely returned to the lineup.
According to ESPN Los Angeles’ David McMenamin, coach Mike D’Antoni gave a cryptic response when addressing Bryant’s ankle and potential return following a shootaround on Friday afternoon.
"He's getting treatment," said D’Antoni. "Obviously he'll get better every day, and we'll see. When he can go, he'll go."
Considering Bryant’s passion for the game and obsession with winning, it’s not a surprise that he’s fervently rehabilitating his sprained ankle and doing everything he can to get back on the court as soon as possible.
The Lakers superstar posted a message via Twitter on Thursday, mentioning that he had watched three films and slept for just an hour to compress and ice the ankle.
Hours later, Bryant unveiled a close-up picture of the ankle and noted that this type of injury has only happened twice during his 17-year career.
Interestingly enough, the last time Bryant suffered this type of sprain came all the way back during the 2000 NBA Finals. In Game 2, Jalen Rose successfully attempted to injure the shooting guard by impeding his landing after he went up for a routine jump shot.
Bryant was unable to go in Game 3 and didn't see the court until Game 4, five days after the incident occurred.
Nearly 13 years later, Dahntay Jones of the Atlanta Hawks performed a similar defensive tactic with much the same results (Jones claims it was unintentional). However, Bryant is much older now and it's quite a stretch to think he’d be able to return after just two days of recovery time.
Because the highly controversial play happened on Wednesday night and Bryant’s ankle was still absurdly swollen on Thursday afternoon, there’s a high likelihood that the star will be ineffective against the Pacers—if he can even play—on Friday evening.
When should Kobe target a return?
Indiana presents a tough-enough matchup with a fully healthy Bryant in the lineup—as evidenced by the Lakers home loss to them back on Nov. 27—that it’s simply not worth risking his health in a game the Lakers aren’t likely to win.
The Lakers are currently the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference and can afford to give Bryant more time on the sideline on Friday, especially if it means he’ll be more effective and healthy for the remaining 15 contests this season.
When it comes down to it, the risk vs. reward is just too uneven in this situation, and Bryant needs to wait until the ankle is closer to 100 percent before making his return.