Los Angeles — Kobe Bryant has barely touched a basketball in a week, giving his gimpy ankle and arthritic finger time to heal. That purplish, jagged gouge over Steve Nash’s right eye also should be one week less ghastly by tipoff time in the Western Conference finals.
Although both stars play a beautiful game, Bryant and Nash realize postseason basketball is rarely pretty, and they wouldn’t expect to escape the postseason without a few ugly souvenirs of the playoff grind.
After both teams got a week off to rest and recalibrate, the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers will attempt to reach their third straight NBA finals when they take on the Phoenix Suns, starting in Game 1 tonight.
“It’s all part of the game, every part of it,” Bryant said. “I love a long layoff. Everybody on our team is pretty much banged up, so it’s good to get rest and get ready for what’s in front of you.”
Bryant has been cagey about his interest in revenge on the Suns for ending the Lakers’ season in the 2006 and 2007 playoffs, alternately embracing and downplaying it. But Bryant, Lamar Odom and a few other Lakers from those teams have mentioned a passing interest in payback.
There’s no doubt about Phoenix’s motivation: Late in what’s starting to resemble a charmed season, Nash is hoping the Suns will get him to the NBA finals for the first time. His 112 career postseason games are the most in NBA history without the chance to play for a title.