Bryant could be a target

Times Staff Writer

NEW ORLEANS -- Having played the first 2 minutes 47 seconds of the All-Star game and escaped unscathed, Kobe Bryant now turns his focus back to the Lakers' season, where his appearance will be more than ceremonial.

Once, opposing players would have actually attacked an injured player, and it remains to be seen how today's players will approach Bryant, who has a torn ligament in his right pinkie finger.

"Well, we had a little rule," said Boston Celtics Coach Doc Rivers, "if you put something on your hand or on your body, that was a bull's eye.

"I don't know if that goes on anymore. We actually talk about that. I don't think anyone wants to hurt anyone, but if you're going to go out and play injured, we're not going to let you beat us injured. That was the old-school thought. I think that's still prevalent today, but not as much."

Said New Orleans Hornets Coach Byron Scott, another old-school player and once Bryant's teammate and mentor with the Lakers:

"I don't think they do it now. In our day they would have done it every game until he couldn't probably play, especially if you have an injury like Kobe has, where you have to wear some type of protection; guys would take shots at that all the time.

"But it's a different league now. I don't think it's as physical or as rough, which is probably a good thing as well."


NBA officials insisted that Bryant take part Sunday, but Vice President Stu Jackson told Scott, the West coach, he could limit Bryant's playing time.

"He told me basically it's up to Kobe," Scott said before the game. "We've got an agreement that he plays very little, then get him out of there as soon as possible."


Boston's Kevin Garnett, who has missed the last nine games because of an abdominal injury, worked out here and is expected to return Tuesday in Denver.

"This is what I call my first injury," Garnett said. "You know, previous years I've been able to manipulate injuries with tape and ice and stim [electronic stimulation] and different types of treatments," Garnett said. "But this is your core, this is your abs. . . . I've been educated as I go. Trying to be smart at the same time."


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