The Los Angeles Lakers are hoping that Kobe Bryant gets clearance from the league to miss Sunday's All-Star Game in New Orleans after announcing Thursday that Bryant has a torn ligament in his right pinkie.
But Bryant doesn't yet have that clearance.....and may not get it.
A league official confirmed Thursday night that the NBA is not looking for potential replacements to fill Bryant's spot on the Western Conference squad. That's because the league office still expects Bryant to start and play for the West, even if it's only for a brief cameo, after he played for the Lakers all the way through to their final game before the All-Star break Wednesday in Minnesota.
Bryant scored 29 points in 35 minutes in Wednesday's 117-92 win at Minnesota. Bryant sat out the fourth quarter and had the finger X-rayed after the game.
The Lakers, according to team sources, are trying to convince the league that Bryant should be excused after a visit Thursday to hand specialist Dr. Steven Shin revealed a ligament tear. Bryant is expected to make that plea personally once he arrives in New Orleans on Friday after Shin recommend that Bryant undergo surgery that would likely sideline him for six weeks.
Bryant also announced in a statement Thursday that he will bypass the surgery recommendation to try to play through the injury, as he did for much of a nine-game, 15-day road trip that the Lakers -- already missing injured center Andrew Bynum -- just completed with a sparkling 7-2 record.
He has been replaced in Saturday's Long Distance Shootout by Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki, but the NBA's longstanding policy on these matters would require Bryant to take some part Sunday because he did play Wednesday and since he's planning to play Tuesday against Atlanta in the Lakers' first game after the break.
That makes sense, and yet it doesn't. Though it may be disrespectful to fans and other players, he has a right to rest in what is ultimately a meaningless game of fun. However, if Kobe did play his final game before the All-Star game and he will play his first game after the All-Star game, then technically he is saying he is healthy enough to participate in any games inbetween those two.