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Notebook: Denver Nuggets have compassion for Kobe Bryant

Los Angeles Lakers star out for the season with Achilles' injury

Nuggets coach George Karl shares words with Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant after their first-round playoff series last spring.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

Over the years, Kobe Bryant has been more than just a thorn in George Karl’s side. He’s been the entire rose bush.

Karl and the Nuggets have been eliminated from the playoffs by Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers three times in the past five years, including last spring when Denver fell in an entertaining seven-game series.

Bryant also was a member of the Lakers team that beat Karl when he was coaching the Seattle SuperSonics in the 1998 Western Conference semifinals.

Despite their competitive history, Karl still felt a measure of sadness when he learned that Bryant suffered a season-ending Achilles’ injury Friday night against the Golden State Warriors.

“I felt for him,” Karl said after Nuggets practice Saturday. “He’s been carrying that team on his back for this playoff run. He’s been incredible. I thought last year he was wearing down. This year, it looks like he’s getting stronger. I wish him the best on the injury. Knowing Kobe, I know he’s going to try to come back.”

After surgery, the prognosis for Bryant’s return was listed as 6 to 9 months. Bryant is considered one of the toughest competitors in sports. Like him or loathe him, he has the respect of his peers.

“You always feel for a guy like that,” Nuggets forward Corey Brewer said. “Kobe is one of the greatest to ever play. You never want anybody to get hurt. You want everybody to have their fair shot.”

While the Nuggets battle for the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference playoffs, the Lakers are one game ahead of Utah for the No. 8 spot with two games remaining.

“They still probably do have a chance to get in the playoffs,” Brewer said, “but it’s going to be tough without Kobe.”

Grading Lawson

Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson worked with the starting unit in practice as Denver prepared for Sunday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Playing his first game in more than two weeks, Lawson scored 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting in 19 minutes off the bench Friday at Dallas. He had missed eight of the previous nine games with a plantar fascia tear.

“I actually thought he was very good,” Karl said. “I thought when he was on the court, he was one of the top couple players on the court. I think we all feel if he would’ve played 30 minutes, we probably would’ve won. That’s just the nature of injuries that you have to live with.”

If all goes well, the plan is for Lawson to get closer to 25 or 30 minutes in Denver’s final few games.

Work to Do

Despite falling to Dallas in overtime Denver can clinch the No. 3 seed in the West with home wins against Portland and Phoenix and a road victory at Milwaukee.

The Nuggets (54-25) also will set a team record for wins with one more victory, but they are more concerned with carrying that success into the postseason.

“All that counts to me is playoffs,” forward Kenneth Faried said. “When we make the noise there, then we’ll get respect we deserve. We can win however many games we want – we can win all 82 – and if we get (knocked) out the first round of the playoffs, it’s just a waste of time.”


TRAIL BLAZERS AT NUGGETS


WHEN:
3 p.m. MT
WHERE: Pepsi Center, Denver
TV; RADIO: Altitude; 104.3 FM, AM-950

PROBABLE STARTERS
DENVER

F Wilson Chandler
F Kenneth Faried
C Kosta Koufos
G Andre Iguodala
G Andre Miller

PORTLAND
F Victor Claver
F LaMarcus Aldridge
C JJ Hickson
G Will Barton
G Damian Lillard

INJURY REPORT
DENVER:
Ty Lawson (plantar fascia tear) is probable; Danilo Gallinari (knee) and Julyan Stone (knee) are out.
PORTLAND: Wesley Matthews (ankle) is questionable; Nicolas Batum (shoulder) and Elliot Williams (Achilles') are out.


SERIES NOTES
The Nuggets have won 22 of their last 24 home games against Portland . . . Denver is an impressive 26-12 (.684) overall against the Trail Blazers since 2003-04, with nine of the Blazers’ 12 wins coming in the past four seasons . . . The Nuggets have won the season series against Portland in six of their last 10 years . . . Denver and Portland both registered 50+ wins in 2010-11. Prior to that year, the last time both teams finished with 50+ wins during the same season was 1987-88 (Denver 54 and Portland 53).