Los Angeles When the Staples Center crowd chants "MVP! MVP" in Kobe Bryant's direction today, it won't simply be based on sentiment.
While the Los Angeles Lakers' players were watching the finale of the Houston-Utah first-round playoff series Friday night at a Hollywood restaurant, Bryant received an e-mail informing him he had won his first Most Valuable Player award.
While it hasn't been made official, the honor has been expected since the completion of the regular season 21â2 weeks ago, when the Bryant-led Lakers finished with a Western Conference-best 57-25 record.
The word came through a Los Angeles Times report, which quoted sources as saying NBA commissioner David Stern would be in Los Angeles this week to present the MVP trophy to Bryant. That's expected to happen Wednesday night before Game 2.
League spokesman Brian McIntyre declined to confirm or deny the Times report, and wouldn't comment further.
"The game tomorrow is a beast sitting on my shoulders," Bryant said after practice Saturday, referring to the opener of the second-round series against the Jazz. "I'm reserving judgment until I hear from David Stern."
That being said, the 29-year-old Bryant didn't need much prodding to share his feelings.
"I'm very excited about it. I didn't know if it was going to happen in my career," he told reporters. "It's a great honor. It means a lot. To me, it's very special. It's very special to share it with these guys."
Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic said Bryant informed his teammates at the restaurant.
"We congratulated him," Vujacic said. "He deserved it. He told us how proud he is of the whole team."
Vujacic smiled when asked if Bryant's teammates went into an "MVP! MVP!" chant upon hearing the news.
"When he paid the bill, we did. Not before," Vujacic said.
"I bit the bullet," Bryant confirmed when asked if he picked up the check.
Tipoff today will be some 381â2 hours after the Jazz beat the Rockets 113-91 to win the series 4-2 and reach the second round. The Lakers haven't played since Monday night, when they completed a first-round sweep of the Denver Nuggets.
"Let's play. Let's get this under way," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
"We're ready to go. We're excited about the opportunity," Bryant said.
Utah coach Jerry Sloan waxed philosophical regarding the quick turnaround.
"We'll just have to go play, that's the way the rules are," he said before the Jazz flew to Los Angeles. "They've had a chance to prepare for us. Their energy level should be as high as it can get, but we still have to play the game."