EL SEGUNDO, Calif. Kobe Bryant did not speak after the Los Angeles Lakers' shootaround this morning, but he did shoot prior to it.
And that's all that seemed to matter to the Lakers, who play host to the Jazz tonight at the Staples Center in Los Angeles in Game 5 of the 2-2 best-of-seven NBA Western Conference semifinal playoff series.
Bryant, Lakers coach Phil Jackson said today, is "OK."
The NBA's reigning MVP hurt his back early in the Jazz's game 4 overtime win on Sunday, did not practice Monday or Tuesday.
Instead, he rested and received treatment.
Yet he remains on track to play tonight.
That fact was a hot topic, yet again, for the Jazz this morning as well.
"Mine may not be as severe as his," Jazz All-Star Carlos Boozer said of the back spasms he has endured throughout the season, "but I have a high tolerance for pain."
Boozer again vowed the Jazz will not overlook Bryant, no matter what his health status.
"If he's wearing his jersey," Boozer said, "we expect him to be Kobe Bryant. We're not gonna take him lightly. We're not gonna think of him as having an ailment or a back injury. We're gonna think of him as No. 24."
Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, though, suggested the game plan does not call for testing Bryant early in an effort to determine just what his limitations are.
"Test the Lakers," he said. "That's what we've got to test. He's a big part of it, but we don't have anybody that's gonna go out there and play him 1-on-1. We're not qualified for that."Besides, Sloan added, "We have to save some of our fouls for later on. ... Whoever's guarding him is going to get in foul trouble."
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