Preparing for Kobe Until Final Notice
Kobe Bryant’s status for Friday’s game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse reads, “Out indefinitely,” after he severely sprained his left ankle in the final seconds of the Lakers’ loss in Atlanta on Wednesday. The Pacers, however, aren’t treating it as such.
“They said ‘out indefinitely’ but that could be a 24-hour thing,” Frank Vogel said after practice on Thursday. “We’re preparing for him to play.”
Bryant’s big games while dealing with an injury or illness are well-documented. The Pacers can just look back to their first meeting, a 79-77 win on Nov. 27th, where Bryant missed morning shootaround. He was laid up in bed, feeling under the weather with aches and chills. That night, he finished with 40 points and 10 rebounds in a game-high 44 minutes.
“I’ve been around this league long enough to know that Kobe Bryant, if he can walk, he’s gonna play. And he walked off the court last night (in Atlanta). We’re expecting him to play. If they tell us not, then we’ll adjust from there.”
Pacers Associate Head Coach Brian Shaw is still close with Bryant, a guy he played with and coached. “If anybody can bounce back from something like that, he can,” Shaw said. “We’re going to prepare as if he was in the lineup and he was going to be playing.”
If he doesn’t – or more likely can’t – play, the Pacers’ top priority becomes seven-time NBA All-Star Dwight Howard, particularly in the pick-and-roll game with Steve Nash. “That’s not an interesting proposition, either,” Vogel admits. “That’s every bit as lethal.”
Pacers center Roy Hibbert, who’s shooting 55 percent and averaging 14.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 3.1 blocks in the last 10 games, will have the challenge of matching up against the premier centers in the NBA. It’s a task that he’s prepared for.
“He’s the best center in the league right now,” Hibbert said. “He’s the king of the hill. He’s strong, athletic and he can score. I’ll do my homework, see what types of moves he likes to do, do my work early of pushing him out of the lane.”
Howard has averaged 22.6 points and 10.2 rebounds in his last five games against the Pacers — four regular-season games last season and one this season. Howard’s tough to defend because his size, 6-11, 265 lb. frame, and agility.
“I think he’s every center in the league’s biggest challenge,” Vogel said. “He’s got the most athleticism, most size, and great savvy.”
Hibbert has went up against Howard enough to know what he’s up against and of Howard’s tendencies, but the duo of Nash and Howard will be a first. Nash, an eight-time All-Star, missed 24 games this season due to a non-displaced fracture in his left leg, including these teams’ first meeting.
“You obviously have to be aware of Nash being able to hit his mid-range shot, hit 3′s, and Dwight rolling to the basket for strong post ups. You have to do two things at once.”