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Kobe Bryant has huge fan in San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich

Kobe Bryant has huge fan in San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich
San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich, sporting a beard this season, directs his team during a preseason game against the Sacramento Kings. (Eric Gay / Associated Press)

When the Lakers play the Spurs on Friday night at Staples Center, it will be the first time San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich and his team will have faced Kobe Bryant in more than a season.

Popovich is more than happy to finally see Bryant back on the court again after missing almost all of last season recovering from injuries.

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"Are you kidding? It's better than nice," Popovich said Monday at the Spurs' shoot-around before playing the Clippers. "It's fantastic. It's great for the league when those kind of players are playing and performing, because those are the guys that most people watch night in and night out. They are great players."

The last time Bryant played against Popovich and the Spurs was on Jan. 9, 2013.

Bryant suffered an injury to his left Achilles' tendon against the Golden State Warriors on March 13, 2013.

The Lakers played the Spurs two nights later, but Bryant didn't play because of the injury, and he missed the 2013 playoff series when Los Angeles was swept 4-0 by San Antonio.

When Bryant came back last season, he played in just six games because of a fractured left knee.

This season Bryant has played in all six of the Lakers' regular-season games.

He's averaging 26.5 points a game, second best in the NBA.

Popovich said he hasn't watched Bryant or the Lakers play yet, but he's looking forward to seeing the all-star guard on the court on Friday.

"Having Kobe back is huge," Popovich said. "It's huge for the whole league, and not just his team. He's an icon as a basketball player. To not have him out there is a big loss for everybody."

Twitter: @BA_Turner

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