Bryant Cleared to Give Lakers a Hand Tonight


Kobe Bryant, out since Oct. 13 after breaking a bone in his right hand, was cleared by doctors Tuesday and could be activated to play in tonight’s game against the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center, Coach Phil Jackson said.

The announcement came as a bit of a surprise. Last week, Jackson said that even if doctors found significant progress, Bryant would need a hard cast on his hand to practice, which meant he couldn’t play in a game before Dec. 8 and would have been out at least the first 20 games of the season.

But after Tuesday’s exam, doctors decided that the bone was healed and that Bryant would only need to wear a soft sponge pad designed by trainer Gary Vitti.


“Obviously, it’s a decision we have to make with the roster, whether we think he should practice or not practice before he plays,” Jackson said of Bryant, who remained in L.A. while the Lakers played in Seattle.

“But it’s almost impossible to keep him off the roster and not let him play tomorrow night. . . . I talked to him on the phone this afternoon, he’s excited about playing.”

Bryant broke the bone in the first exhibition game and has not played since.

The original framework for Bryant’s recovery time was six to eight weeks. If he returns tonight, he will have missed seven weeks and 15 regular-season games.

Bryant, who never had suffered a significant injury before, hoped to be back before Thanksgiving, was shooting with his right hand several weeks ago, and had grown increasingly frustrated with the unpredictable nature of his healing process.

Last week, team physician Stephen Lombardo told Bryant that it would be best if he stopped shooting with his right hand.

But Tuesday, the news was all good.

“It’s great for us,” said Jackson, who said he did not know who would be taken off the roster to make room for Bryant.


“Obviously, it’s going to change our roster. As a coach, you have to make a decision, who’s going to have to go and who’s going to be our starting team and how are you going to get your rotation back again.”

Jackson suggested that, if activated tonight, Bryant probably would come off the bench but could be in the starting lineup by Friday’s game against Portland.

“Great to have him back,” center Shaquille O’Neal said. “It’s going to be fun. We’ve got our three weapons back [O’Neal, Bryant and Glen Rice]. All the other players just need to surround us and do what they’re supposed to do and we should be a very good team.”

How did Jackson explain the sudden availability of Bryant, after thinking he would be out almost two more weeks?

“Don’t ask,” Jackson said with a smile. “Things heal quickly. . . . He had magnetic resonance . . . a witch doctor . . . he healed really quickly.”