Kobe Bryant will forgo surgery on his right pinkie finger and report to training camp as scheduled when it begins later this month, the Lakers’ guard and reigning NBA most valuable player announced Tuesday on his website.
Bryant said on kb24.com that he consulted with “numerous hand specialists” before making his decision, and opted not to endure a post-operative recovery period that would cause him to miss the start of camp on Sept. 27.
Initially, reports put the recovery period at six weeks, but Bryant said he was told he could’ve been sidelined as long as three months. Bryant injured the finger in a February game, and delayed getting surgery to finish the NBA season and to help the U.S. win a basketball gold medal at the Summer Games in Beijing.
“I have always felt that I can still focus and play at a high level even through various injuries, that’s really just part of the game,” Bryant wrote. “When the doctors told me recovery from a procedure could be 12 weeks, I just decided now was not the time to have surgery.
“What it really came down to for me is that I just didn’t want to miss any time ‘punching the clock’ for the Lakers, given all we are trying to accomplish as a team this NBA season. I am just really excited and looking forward to being there with the guys when camp opens in a few weeks. That is a real bonding process and if I can avoid being on the sidelines for that, God willing, I will.”
The Lakers, after losing in the NBA Finals to the Boston Celtics, will have 7-foot center Andrew Bynum back “100%" after he suffered a major knee injury eight months ago.
With a healthy Bynum, 20, joining Bryant and Pau Gasol, the Lakers are 12-5 favorites to win the NBA title, according to the MGM/Mirage Race and Sports Book in Las Vegas.
Some news outlets reported Monday that Bryant would undergo surgery on the pinkie, which was injured in a Feb. 5 game when Bryant tried to steal a pass in New Jersey and bent the finger against Jason Kidd’s arm.
With Bryant having a torn ligament and loose bone fragment in the finger, Lakers trainer Gary Vitti taped his pinkie to minimize pain and maximize the shooter’s touch.
Bryant, 30, proceeded to average 28.3 points last season despite nagging pain, such as when he was struck on the finger in a March game against Toronto.
“That was as good of a whack as I’ve had since I hurt it,” he said then. “It just throbs . . . for five minutes or so. You just kind of have to endure it and wait until the pain subsides.”
A Lakers spokesman said the team “fully respects and supports his decision.”
“It’s his finger, his body. He’s the best person to make this decision,” team spokesman John Black said. “He played with it in the last third of the season, took us to the Finals, won the MVP, and won the gold medal. So, he’s proven he can play with it as it is.”