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Cut Puts Bryant on Shelf

Times Staff Writer

Kobe Bryant will sit out at least five games because of a lacerated right index finger, an injury suffered, according to the Lakers and Bryant, during a mishap in Bryant’s garage in Newport Beach.

Bryant’s past eight months have included a felony sexual assault charge, shoulder surgery, knee surgery, a second shoulder injury and, now, 10 stitches along the length of his finger, starting near the tip.

Bryant said he was moving boxes, despite his sore shoulder, at about 7 p.m. Thursday when he placed his shooting hand on a window in his garage and tried to use it as leverage. He said the glass shattered and sliced the finger.

After some consideration over an unspecified period of time, Bryant said he went to a doctor, who told him he’d done no tendon or nerve damage. The doctor stitched the wound and wrapped the finger in tape and gauze, which is how Bryant arrived Friday morning for the Laker shoot-around, and how the Lakers learned of his injury, 15 hours later.

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“My first reaction was ... to put a Band-Aid on it and go to sleep, check it out tomorrow morning,” Bryant said. “I opted not to do that.

“I got lucky. I missed the tendon, so I’m good.”

Bryant was put on the injured list Friday, for the second time in 2 1/2 weeks. He will not accompany the team to Toronto today for the start of a seven-city, 12-day trip. He will attend motions hearings in Eagle, Colo., Monday and Tuesday, then rejoin the Lakers for Wednesday’s game in Cleveland, but he won’t be eligible to come off the injured list until the Feb. 8 game in Orlando.

The injury is expected to heal in time for the All-Star game on Feb. 15 at Staples Center, for which Bryant was voted a Western Conference starter. Without the rigor of games for at least a week, Bryant might also make progress on his sore shoulder, which bothered him even after coming off the injured list Saturday in Utah.

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“I try not to think about it,” he said of a season fractured by injury and circumstance. “I try to find the blessing in it. Go from there.”

Meantime, the Lakers continue to count injuries and games lost. Karl Malone sat out his 18th consecutive game Friday night because of a torn knee ligament and could be out another two months. Shaquille O’Neal recently missed 12 games because of a strained calf.

“The reality is that Kobe was playing hurt and he’s going to have an ample opportunity to rest his shoulder and get right,” Coach Phil Jackson said. “I’m not ruing my fortune or the fortune of my team. I think we’re going to be fine. We just have to survive this, [be] optimistic, right ourselves and not lose our patience.”

The Lakers signed guard Maurice Carter to a 10-day contract to replace Bryant. Carter had been averaging 19.4 points for the CBA’s Dakota Wizards.

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The NBA fined the Jazz $15,000 for its spoof of Malone in a mock telephone call last Saturday night at the Delta Center, a between-periods act the league said, “ridiculed opposing players.”

While the Lakers were mildly uncomfortable with the Malone impersonator begging to “come home,” it was the caller’s reference to Bryant that bothered the organization and, apparently, the league.

Malone was angry and his former coach did not disagree.

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“I would be upset too, quite frankly,” Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan told the Salt Lake Tribune.

While apparently pleased the Jazz was punished by the league, Malone said, “I didn’t [say] it for that.”

He added the Jazz could keep its apology.

“It’s not sincere,” he said. “I don’t accept it because it’s not real.”


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