FEBRUARY 15 2008 22:30h
˝I`m not going to play,˝ Bryant said. ˝I`m going to rest it and get it as healthy as possible."
Kobe Bryant plans to make no more than a cameo appearance at Sunday's National Basketball Association All-Star Game because of a torn tendon in his little finger, he said Friday.
"I'm not going to play," Bryant said. "I'm going to rest it and get it as healthy as possible."
The Los Angeles Lakers superstar guard plans to suit up for the Western Conference in the 57th annual showdown with the East but only because the NBA requires players to appear if they play in a team's last game before the event.
"It's the rules of the NBA. I have to play," Bryant said. "I don't want to get suspended."
Bryant, last year's All-Star Game Most Valuable Player, pulled out of a 3-pointer contest Saturday and given his injury is unlikely to be asked to leave the bench Sunday by West coach Byron Scott.
Asked if he might get a waiver following a doctor's diagnosis Thursday of a torn tendon in his smallest right finger, Bryant said, "I'm not sure where the league stands. I don't know what to tell you."
Bryant is certain where he stands about surgery, which is what physicians recommended but something that would sideline him for six weeks just as the team has caught fire thanks to newly acquired forward Pau Gasol of Spain.
The moment surgery was mentioned, Bryant began shaking his head side to side. "I will do what I can and we will see what happens," Bryant said. "I'm just going to have to be careful, especially grabbing those rebounds."
Bryant ranks second in the NBA with 28 points a game and is expected to be a key player for the US Olympic team next August as the Americans try to reclaim global supremacy at the Beijing Olympics after taking only bronze in 2004.
"I would prefer to delay any surgery until after the Olympics," Bryant said.
NBA rivals Jason Kidd and LeBron James, likely teammates on the US Olympic squad, just want to see him healthy for the trip to China.
"I thought a lot about that," Kidd said. "Kobe is so competitive. He's tough. I hope the finger heals."
East star James, the NBA scoring leader, would love to match slam dunks and high-leaping acrobatics with Bryant on Sunday but wants to see him healthy even more.
"In an All-Star Game, it doesn't matter. With the injury he has got, if he needs a rest he should take it," James said. "If you are injured, this is the weekend to get a rest."
"King" James also left no doubt who he sees as the real ruler of the NBA, for now when it comes to individual superstars.
"Who is better, me or Kobe? Kobe," James said. "Is there a better player in the NBA than Kobe? Nobody."