LOS ANGELES — Kobe Bryant wasn’t happy about spending Christmas Day on the sideline, unable to help the struggling Los Angeles Lakers.
It’s a place he’s unaccustomed to being on the holiday. Bryant leads the NBA with a record 15 appearances on Christmas Day, but he’s out an expected four to six weeks with a fracture in his left knee.
“It’s strange to be coming in on Christmas and not playing,” he said before the Lakers hosted the streaking Miami Heat on Wednesday. “It’s a foreign feeling, but I’m here to support my guys.”
LeBron James and Co. had won five in a row; the Lakers had dropped two straight.
“We need you tonight,” Lakers guard Nick Young told the crowd before tipoff.
Bryant’s injury was diagnosed last week, his second major one of the season.
He didn’t play his first game until Dec. 8 after nearly eight months away while recovering from a torn Achilles tendon. Then he got hurt again Dec. 17 at Memphis while playing his fourth game in five nights.
“I was fortunate that it was not a meniscus,” he said.
Initially, Bryant didn’t think he was seriously hurt against Memphis. He went down late in the third quarter, but returned to finish out the victory in which he logged a season-high 21 points in 32 minutes.
“I didn’t know it was fractured,” he said. “I was expecting a bone bruise more than anything else. I thought (the doctor) was joking when he told me.”
Bryant has been limited to riding a bike; he isn’t supposed to put any pressure on his knee.
“It’s just been slow in terms of laying off it and letting it heal,” he said. “When you don’t have activity, you got to watch the other parts like nutrition.”
Typical of Bryant’s attention to detail, he said he’s been reading critical comments that suggest he won’t return this season.
“It’s the same old tune, just being sung a little more loudly now,” he said. “These type of things just help me lock in more.”
Asked if there’s any chance he won’t be back, Bryant replied, “Not that I’m aware of.”
Los Angeles signed the 35-year-old guard to a two-year, $48.5 million contract extension in November.
James, along with other NBA players, tweeted out well wishes to Bryant, although the two superstars haven’t talked.
“Especially games like today, you want to have the best guys out there,” James said.
After the Achilles injury, Bryant expressed rare self-doubt. He hasn’t felt any this time.
“The knee is not really a concern to me,” he said. “The biggest question was would the Achilles respond to my game. It felt fine. It was strong.”
Bryant was looking forward to playing against the defending NBA champions as a way to see where he was physically with his Achilles.
“This was a really big measuring stick,” he said.
Instead, he sat at the end of the bench wearing a black suit and print T-shirt. He sat on a chair with extra inches of padding, likely to take stress off his left knee.
“My spirits are fine,” he said. “I feel more locked in now than my entire career.”