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Bryant follows routine with ankle to the letter

Times Staff Writer

The nights have been sleepless for Kobe Bryant, who will play against New Orleans tonight if the strength of his sprained right ankle and its response to the ABCs are satisfactory.

Bryant said he had shunned sleep since spraining his ankle, instead standing and drawing the letters of the alphabet in the air with his right foot to “keep the motion going” in his ankle.

“It’s pretty boring,” Bryant said. “I’m glad I know the alphabet. You want to get better, you’ve got to stay up and do whatever it takes to get better. I’ll catch up on my rest some [other] time.”

Bryant did not practice Tuesday, but he seemed relieved after watching replays of what looked to be a graphic sprain in the Lakers’ 101-87 victory Monday over Indiana.

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After landing awkwardly on the foot of Indiana center Jeff Foster in the third quarter, he was helped to the bench by Ronny Turiaf and trainer Gary Vitti. He stayed there briefly, walked to the locker room under his own power and returned to the bench a few minutes later but did not re-enter the game.

“I thought I was going to be out for two-and-a-half, three weeks,” Bryant said. “It popped and everything. It looked pretty nasty. I’m happy that I’m able to walk today.”

Bryant felt a little pain Tuesday and would be on his own timetable, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said.

“He has got a pretty good idea of what level he can play at,” Jackson said. “We certainly won’t press the issue here on that.”

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There is no sense of urgency to get him back in time to play a depleted New Orleans team. The Hornets have been hurting in many ways, with injuries to Peja Stojakovic (back spasms), Bobby Jackson (cracked rib) and David West (strained forearm) contributing to a five-game losing streak.

The Lakers have two more home games after Wednesday -- Atlanta on Friday and San Antonio on Sunday -- before hitting the road for eight of their next 10. Maurice Evans would take Bryant’s spot in the lineup if Bryant sat out.

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Jackson seemed more pleased with Andrew Bynum after demoting him last week and wondering about the teen’s work ethic. Jackson said Tuesday that Bynum “played with the kind of energy that we want him to play with” against Indiana.

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“He was aggressive asking for the ball, moving into post positions that we wanted to, got some put-backs, which are important, got some offensive rebounds,” Jackson said. "[He] went to the boards, which we haven’t seen before. He was worried about getting back on defense, and we’ve been emphasizing you’ve got to offensive rebound. That’s one of the jobs you’ve got to have as a big guy.”

As for his public critique of Bynum’s 19-year-old ways, “we always say that criticism isn’t a personal act,” he said. “It’s not about you personally. It’s about the act, and we want that to improve.”

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Forward Brian Cook was back at practice Tuesday after a two-day bout with vertigo.

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“It was scary, it was weird,” Cook said. “I walked into the training room and I was trying to use the walls [while] walking around and stumbling. I’m just glad to be able to see straight today.”

Cook has had a ragged few weeks and has not played since Nov. 19.

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The Lakers signed assistant general manager Ronnie Lester to a three-year contract extension. Lester is in his 22nd season overall with the franchise, his sixth in his current position.

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LAKERS TONIGHT

vs. New Orleans, 7:30, FSN West

Site -- Staples Center.

Radio -- 570; 1330.

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Records -- Lakers 12-5; Hornets 8-8.

Record vs. Hornets (2005-06) -- 3-1.

Update -- The Hornets started off well enough but have since tumbled to the middle of the Western Conference pack amid a slew of injuries and a five-game losing streak.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

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