NBA expects Bryant to play Sunday

NEW ORLEANS – NBA officials still are planning for Kobe Bryant to play in Sunday’s All-Star game after the Los Angeles Lakers announced that their star has decided to forgo surgery on his injured right pinkie.

While Bryant has pulled out of the three-point contest, league officials said Thursday evening they expect the Western Conference’s leading vote-getter to play Sunday in New Orleans.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson said Wednesday he hoped Bryant would skip the All-Star game and use the entire weekend to rest. Bryant, however, won’t have an easy time convincing the league to give him a pass because he played Wednesday against Minnesota and, for now, hopes to play in the Lakers’ game against Atlanta on Tuesday. One league official described it as “standard procedure” for a player to have to participate in the All-Star game if he played in his team’s games leading up to the break and isn’t definitely sidelined for subsequent games.

The Lakers announced Thursday that Bryant had been diagnosed with a complete tear of his radial collateral ligament and an avulsion fracture, in which a small fragment of bone had been pulled off by a tendon. The team said Bryant will try to play through the injury rather than have surgery, which could sideline him up to six weeks.

Bryant initially injured his pinkie on Feb. 5, at which time it was diagnosed as a dislocation. He aggravated the injury Wednesday night against the Timberwolves.

“My current thinking is to give my finger some treatment and rest for a few days, and hope I can still continue to compete at a high level after that rest,” Bryant said in a statement released by the team. “I would prefer to delay any surgical procedure until after our Lakers season, and this summer’s Olympic Games. But, this is an injury that myself and the Lakers’ medical staff will just have to continue to monitor on a day-to-day basis.”

Dirk Nowitzki will replace Bryant in the three-point contest.

Johnny Ludden is the NBA editor for Yahoo! Sports. Send Johnny a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Thursday, Feb 14, 2008