After seven missed games due to tenosynovitis of the shin dating back to April 7, Bryant told reporters following L.A.’s win at Golden State that he’d play at San Antonio on Friday.
“Why not?” he said in the tunnel outside the visitor’s locker room. “I’m good.”
So good, in fact, that he came out of an intense pregame workout that included running and jumping at full speed with no pain. He said that, if needed, he could play all 48 minutes against the Spurs.
In the meantime, Bryant has appreciated what his teammates have done to win five of the seven Kobe-less contests, including Wednesday’s 99-87 victory featuring Pau Gasol’s 22-11-11 triple-double.
“It’s been good to see how much guys have progressed, doing things they would ordinarily not try to do,” he said. “When I’m not out there, you have to do other things. You have to experiment with your game. They had a great deal of success with it.”
Bryant mentioned Metta World Peace, Matt Barnes and Steve Blake individually picking their games up on the perimeter in his absence, and said he hopes each will continue to be aggressive when he returns to the floor.
Kobe will have three games (at San Antonio, vs. Oklahoma City and at Sacramento) to find his rhythm heading into the postseason, which worries him not even a little.
“I’m good,” he repeated, with a somewhat sly grin. He knows that the 12 days of rest didn’t just help his shin heal, but the rest of his body. He knows that only Kevin Love and Luol Deng averaged more than his 38.5 minutes per game, and this in his 16th NBA season.
Bryant does hold a narrow lead over Kevin Durant for the scoring title, with 28.1 per night compared to Durant’s 27.8, and while you think he’d like to come out on top of that race, the only thing that’s really on his mind is chasing a sixth championship.
Starting on Friday.
***UPDATE*** – Kobe will indeed start against San Antonio, which he confirmed after the team’s Friday shootaround. He felt no pain after his complete workout prior to Wednesday’s game and is ready to go full speed.