NEW ORLEANS – Kobe Bryant said Friday he would prefer not to play in Sunday’s All-Star game because of his injured right pinkie, but understands he will probably need to make an obligatory appearance to satisfy NBA officials.
Bryant has a ligament tear in the finger and has decided to put off surgery, which could have sidelined him for up to six weeks. He has pulled out of Saturday’s three-point contest, but league officials haven’t granted the Lakers’ request to let him skip Sunday’s game.
“I would hope they would, but there’s nothing I can do about it,” Bryant said. “You just have to go with the flow. I’m not complaining about it, I’m not worried about it. If I need to play, I’ll play. If they don’t mind me sitting out and resting and doing treatment on my hand, I’d appreciate that.”
League officials continued to say they have been led to believe Bryant will play Sunday, even though the Lakers prefer he use the entire weekend to rest. But one official also added, “We obviously don’t want to jeopardize his long-term health. If (the injury) flares up Saturday or Sunday, we’ll address the situation then.”
West coach Byron Scott said he’ll play Bryant as little as he wants, and league officials sounded like they would be content to have the Western Conference’s leading All-Star vote getter make only a modest appearance.
“If he says, ‘I only want to play one minute and then take me out,’ ” that’s what I’ll do,” Scott said.
League officials said it’s “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.
Bryant also said it was the preference of Lakers owner Jerry Buss that he undergo the procedure now rather than wait.
“He’s concerned about my hand post-career and I appreciate that,” Bryant said. “But we want to (contend for a championship) now.”