TV: League Pass
- All indications are Kobe Bryant will play tonight against the Pacers in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, despite a severely sprained left ankle. Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni said 90 minutes before tipoff he had a “gut feeling” Bryant would be on the court for the opening tip. “I’ve only been here a few months,” he said, “but from what I’ve seen, I’ve seen him play with worse stuff.” Bryant was injured when he landed on Dahntay Jones’ foot after a jump shot with 3.9 seconds remaining in a 96-92 loss in Atlanta Wednesday and was originally listed as out indefinitely.
- Bryant was listed in the starting lineup in the Lakers’ pregame roster submitted to the NBA approximately 45 minutes before tipoff. D’Antoni said Bryant’s play would be closely monitored. “We’ll all see it together and we’ll have a conversation and then he’ll probably keep playing,” he said. “It depends on how he feels. We don’t want to injure it any more and we’ll see how it goes. He’s going to be productive. He’ll find a way to be productive, so that won’t be the question. I just hope he makes sure he doesn’t get it worse than what it is.”
- Pacers Coach Frank Vogel has been expecting to see Bryant in the starting lineup since the moment he was injured in Atlanta. “Obviously, he had some comments early in the season about challenging some teammates to play hurt,” Vogel said. “So I think if his ankle’s attached to his leg, he’s going to put his money where is mouth is and get out and show he’s going to play hurt. … I pay no attention to any injury or illness with Kobe Bryant. I expect his best shot every time we play them.”
- Vogel responded strongly to the charge from Cleveland guard Daniel Gibson that Jones, a former Pacers player, intended to injure Bryant. “Dahntay Jones is not a dirty player,” Vogel said. “I coached him for several years. He’s a high-character person, a high-character player that respects the game the right way and there’s no way he would ever do anything to intentionally hurt a player. It’s ridiculous.”
– Conrad Brunner