MIAMI – If Kobe Bryant plays in the 2014 NBA All-Star game, it will likely be only a cameo appearance.
Bryant received 988,884 votes from the fans to land a starting guard slot for the Western Conference in the Feb. 16 game in New Orleans, but has played in just six games this season because of Achilles and knee injuries. He thinks the NBA should allow a more deserving player to replace him.
"With all due to respect to the fans that voted me in, I certainly appreciate that and they know I appreciate that, but you got to do the right thing," Bryant said Thursday night. "You got to reward these young guys for the work they have been putting in."
Bryant initially said "no" when asked if he thought he'd play in the All-Star Game. But he acknowledged that if he's healthy and playing for the Lakers it would probably be tough for him to completely skip the game.
"If I played before [the All-Star Game] the rule is you have to go in and play or miss the next two games," Bryant said. "It means somebody would have to lose a spot unfortunately. The backups would be playing a lot because I would go in there, do my two minutes and sit down."
Only Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (1,047,281), a first-time All-Star, received more West fan votes than Bryant. Curry said he had a "surreal" and "emotional experience" with his family seeing his name being announced as an All-Star starter after Bryant's on television. Curry still hopes to play with Bryant in the West backcourt in New Orleans.
"He's made some comments before about the young guys and he is paving the way for young guys," Curry said on a media conference call. "It's commendable, but if he is healthy I expect him to play and do his cameo experience. It would be really special to suit up alongside Kobe in an All-Star game."
Bryant returned from an Achilles tendon injury that cut his 2012-13 season short on Dec. 8 against the Toronto Raptors. After playing in six games, he suffered a fracture of the tibial plateau in his left knee on Dec. 17. Bryant said he will be re-evaluated by a doctor in early February. His Achilles tendon also has strengthened during the layoff.
"I'm just doing a lot of biking, heavy spinning, watching my diet," Bryant said.
Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni expects Bryant to play before the All-Star break and he has no problems with him playing in New Orleans.
"It is what it is," D'Antoni said. "He'll just deal with it."