Day 3 of Kobe Bryant's losing battle against flu had the Lakers realizing they won't get their reserve swingman back even when they get him back, with Coach Del Harris already planning for a short-term future that could include only about 10 minutes for Bryant on Sunday afternoon.
And that's if he plays at all in Game 4. On Friday, Bryant showed for the morning shoot-around but, for the second day in a row, left before actual activity began. He was not in attendance later as the Western Conference semifinals shifted to the Great Western Forum.
"He just couldn't," Harris said. "He's having trouble talking, period. He's suffering, I can tell you, more from not being here than the aches."
The physical problems will be the only ones to linger, though, so Harris figures Bryant may be good for only about half the normal playing time once he does return. All of that could come as backup to Eddie Jones at shooting guard, meaning more time for Robert Horry at his former full-time position of small forward, and the Lakers going more with the big lineup--with Elden Campbell at power forward and Shaquille O'Neal at center--that proved so effective in the Game 2 victory.
"The longer it goes, the more drained you are," Harris said. "It's going to take a while for him to come back. Even when the fever is gone, he won't feel like running a marathon. Mentally, yes; physically, no.
"I'll have to go a little bit slowly with it to get him in the flow. . . . I know Step A. Step B will be determined."
That will be based on how Bryant looks when he plays for the first time since Monday. Until then, the big lineup lives on as a necessity more than strictly a matchup tool, barring any rare moments when Harris may play his two point guards, Nick Van Exel and Derek Fisher, together and slide Jones to the frontcourt.
Is it the socks?
More as a gimmick/superstitious move than a salute to Michael Cooper, Fisher and Van Exel stayed with the knee-high look, as was the case in the two previous games against the SuperSonics. They were supposed to have team-wide support, but some players chickened out, and some players had other issues.
"Elden's calves are too big," Van Exel said.
The SuperSonics' 68 points on Wednesday marked their fewest in a playoff game--breaking the franchise record of 70 set against Harris' Houston Rockets on April 23, 1982.