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Sole on Ice for Bryant, Lakers

Times Staff Writer

Clinically it’s called plantar fasciitis, but it’s otherwise commonly known as a really sore foot.

The Lakers know it by yet another description: It’s what’s bothering Kobe Bryant.

The Laker star has been diagnosed with the condition, which can be as ugly as it sounds and can affect careers as quickly as it appears.

Forward Wally Szczerbiak of the Minnesota Timberwolves sat out 53 games last season because of it. Peja Stojakovic and Rasheed Wallace have battled it in recent seasons. Doug Christie and Rashard Lewis, a 34-year-old veteran and a 25-year-old up-and-comer, have been affected by it this season.

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Bryant’s condition was caught early and diagnosed within days of the first sign of soreness on the underside of his left foot. He is not expected to miss any games in the near future, but he had better get used to postgame treatment sessions that border on 45 minutes.

“Hopefully, the treatment will work and it will go away,” Laker spokesman John Black said. “Only time will tell.”

With four frontcourt players unable to play and Bryant resting his foot, the Lakers canceled practice Thursday. They play the Magic here tonight and at Houston on Saturday.

There is no definitive remedy for plantar fasciitis, a painful swelling of the strip of skin that stretches from the heel to the ball of the foot. It usually starts with discomfort in the heel and can be caused by numerous factors, including poorly fitted shoes or walking barefoot too often. Doctors most frequently recommend daily icing, orthotic inserts, stretching techniques or cortisone injections.

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Laker Coach Rudy Tomjanovich is familiar with plantar fasciitis.

“It’s not a good thing, I’ll tell you that,” he said. “I had it as a coach. I had to sleep with a boot on.

“I got competitive one day after practice. Some guys needed some work, we didn’t have enough players, I went out there. It wasn’t a wise decision. I tried to make a move I couldn’t do when I was playing.

“It took a long time [to recover] ... months and months.”

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Bryant hasn’t been limping or showing noticeable signs of discomfort, but he was largely ineffective Thursday in the Lakers’ 110-87 loss to Memphis. He elevated nicely in the first quarter to make a three-pointer over Shane Battier, but he finished with a season-low 20 points on four-for-19 shooting.

The night before, however, Bryant had stopped New Orleans point guard Baron Davis, holding the All-Star to five-for-20 shooting in the Lakers’ 106-98 victory. Bryant, who asked Tomjanovich before the game if he could be assigned to Davis, scored 31 points on eight-for-18 shooting.

Bryant, averaging 27.7 points but shooting only 37.7%, said Wednesday he was confident in his body’s ability to heal quickly but was unavailable for comment Thursday.

“I don’t think he’s happy about it but I wouldn’t say he’s down or depressed,” Black said. “He recognizes that injuries are part of the game. He has a positive mental outlook on treating it and overcoming it.”

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Szczerbiak, a former All-Star for the Timberwolves, struggled last season with the condition after hurting his foot before training camp. He had to wear two types of walking boots, then a hard cast for nearly a month before returning to play in February.

Bryant’s condition appears not as severe, although he might wear orthotic inserts in his shoe to help stabilize the left foot. Other than that, there will be treatment before and after games.

“It’s definitely too early to call it chronic,” Black said. “The hope would be that it doesn’t become chronic.”

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Kareem Rush has been spotty as Bryant’s backup and has had foot problems of his own.

Rush, who has made one of 11 shots this season, forgot to wear orthotics in an exhibition game and missed almost two weeks because he aggravated a chronically sore tendon in his foot.

When Bryant wasn’t discussing his injury after the Memphis game, he was talking about a team-first mentality: “I can go off solo and get 50, 60 points against these guys but that doesn’t mean we’re going to win the game. And to be a better team later in the season and playoffs ... we have to make sure everybody is improving on an every-game and everyday basis.”

Staff writer J.A. Adande contributed to this report.

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TONIGHT

at Orlando, 4 p.m. PST, Ch. 9

Site -- TD Waterhouse Centre.

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Radio -- KLAC (570), KWKW (1330).

Records -- Lakers 3-3, Magic 3-2.

Record vs. Magic (2003-04) -- 2-0.

Update -- Like the Lakers, the Magic underwent a massive makeover during the off-season, sending Tracy McGrady to the Houston Rockets for Steve Francis, Kelvin Cato and Cuttino Mobley. Francis is averaging 18.6 points and Grant Hill, who has battled ankle problems in recent years, is averaging 17.4 points. Mobley has been hobbled by a strained groin and Cato has been slowed by a sprained ankle.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Numbers Game

A look at Kobe Bryant’s statistics through the first six games of the season:

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*--* * Minutes 40.7 * Fgm-Fga 40-106 * Fg pct. 377 * 3fgm-Fga 10-29 * Ftm-Fta 76-87 * Ft pct. 874 * Points 166 * Average 27.7

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NBA scoring leaders through Wednesday’s games:

*--* G Pts. Avg. James, Clev. 5 143 28.6 Iverson, Phil. 5 141 28.2 Bryant, Lakers 6 166 27.7 Wade, Miami 4 108 27.0 Davis, N.O. 4 105 26.3 Garnett, Minn. 4 104 26.0 Pierce, Boston 4 98 24.5 Jamison, Wash. 5 122 24.4 Redd, Mil. 3 73 24.3 Duncan, S.A. 4 96 24.0

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