DENVER – Lakers guard Kobe Bryant missed the late-morning shootaround Thursday with a bad stomach ailment that put his availability tonight in doubt, although teammates and coach Mike Brown indicated they expect Bryant to play tonight in Game 6 as Los Angeles tries to close out the Nuggets.
Bryant is suffering from gastroenteritis, spokesman John Black said, an illness that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, cramping and other problems. The severity of Bryant’s case is not known, and the Lakers say they will have an update about 90 minutes before tipoff tonight.
Brown said he did not know his contingency plan for a starting lineup without Bryant. Steve Blake is the logical choice as the only backcourt reserve, at shooting guard or point guard, in the rotation, but Brown could go with small forward Matt Barnes to keep some semblance of a bench in place with Blake. Or, Andrew Goudelock could be pressed into emergency action after playing two minutes total in the series.
“If I were a betting guy – which I’m not, commish – I would probably bet that he would play before he wouldn’t,” Brown, who said he found out about the ailment as the Lakers prepared to leave for shootaround, told reporters at Pepsi Center after the prep session for Game 6. “But I don’t know how serious it is.”
Added Blake: “I haven’t talked to Kobe. I don’t know how sick he is or what the whole situation is, but I would expect him to be out there.”
Indeed, it is difficult for anyone who knows Bryant’s passion to play to imagine him missing a postseason game and a postseason game with the chance to advance at that. Even if he does play, though, it would be in a weakened state, which puts more pressure on the bench to produce in a series where power forward Jordan Hill has been the only consistent reserve.
“I don’t think it’s one individual,” Brown said when asked about who picks up the slack for a sick or absent Bryant. “I think it’s going to have to be as a group. We had different guys step up at different times for us (when Bryant missed seven games with a shin injury late in the regular season). It’s going to have to be a group effort more than anything else. But obviously Pau (Gasol) and Andrew (Bynum) are going to have to help a lot more, as well as (Ramon) Sessions.”