Although coach Phil Jackson said Kobe Bryant had fluid drained from his right knee “a while ago,” the Lakers aren’t additionally concerned about their banged-up superstar’s health.
Before the opener of the Western Conference finals on Monday night, Jackson claimed the procedure wasn’t unusual for the Lakers’ leading scorer and former league MVP. Bryant strained his knee during the season, and had it drained previously when it swelled.
“It’s not unusual, but I can’t remember how many times I’ve ever heard of it being drained before,” Jackson said. “Maybe once or twice. It happened a while ago. ... It’s a concern, but we’re dealing with it pretty well.”
Jackson directed further inquiries to Bryant, who loathes discussing his injuries. Bryant took the court for the series opener against the Phoenix Suns wearing a bright yellow brace on his right knee.
The 2009 NBA finals MVP missed four of the Lakers’ last five regular-season games to rest a litany of injuries, including a gimpy left ankle and an arthritic finger. He had surgery on his right knee a few years ago, and it occasionally has caused trouble for him since then.
He scored at least 30 points in Los Angeles’ last five playoff games, including every game against Utah. With 26.9 points per game so far, he’s the highest-scoring player still alive in the postseason.
The Suns had injured big man Robin Lopez back in their starting lineup for the first time since March. Lopez had been out with a bulging disc, but coach Alvin Gentry said he had no limitations on his playing time in Game 1.
The Lakers listed six players with injuries, but all six were available against the Suns. Guard Sasha Vujacic was in uniform for the first time in the postseason after spraining his left ankle in the regular-season finale against the Clippers.
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