Around the NBA


Boston Celtics forward Wally Szczerbiak underwent season-ending surgery on his left ankle Thursday.  Szczerbiak sprained his left ankle during Boston’s game against Sacramento on Feb. 20, the latest of several injuries to his ankles this season.


Clippers guard Shaun Livingston is scheduled to have reconstructive surgery on his left knee Tuesday in Alabama.  Livingston tore parts of his anterior cruciate ligament, posterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament and lateral meniscus in a victory over Charlotte on Feb. 26.  The Clippers’ third-year pro may be sidelined for a year or more.

This was hardly the homecoming Kobe Bryant envisioned this season, returning to the city that launched him to the NBA while having to defend himself in the wake of a play that wasn’t exactly full of brotherly love.
After serving his second one-game suspension of the season, Bryant specifically wanted yesterday to address the perception — fueled by so many replays of him striking Manu Ginobili and Marko Jaric in the head — that he is in some way a dirty player.
“The reputation that I want to have is that of being a physical basketball player that plays hard,” Bryant said. “Not one that goes out and tries to intentionally hurt people. That’s something that I guard against. I respect the game too much.”
The suspension could not have come at a worse time for the “fragile” Lakers, as Bryant put it.
The Lakers have dropped four consecutive games after Wednesday’s loss in Milwaukee and are down to just 10 available players because of injury.
There also is the matter of how Bryant will avoid a third strike, both literally and figuratively, with the league office. He has been suspended for two plays in which he flailed his arm trying to draw a foul after having his shot blocked.
“When you play, you try not to think about that type of stuff because it winds up affecting your game,” Bryant said. “You go out there and just play basketball. That’s what I try to do. I just have to be a little bit more mindful, I guess.”
Lakers coach Phil Jackson said he had “umpteen” video examples of Bryant flailing his arms after shots with nobody around. He said Bryant would have to be on guard to avoid a third offense but also called on the league not to be punitive.
“There are people that pile on and we know there are NBA people that like to pile on and add to that,” Jackson said. “We know that he’s a competitor and he’s a performer and we trust the league’s got a fair analysis of that.”
Bryant described having a “helpless” feeling watching in two different restaurants as the Lakers never led against Milwaukee. He also made clear that he felt he had been singled out not once but twice with the suspensions.
“I can’t go through a process of just feeling bad for myself,” Bryant said. “Obviously, I believe I got a raw deal on both of them. I’ve seen a lot worse go down. But there’s nothing you can do about it.”
The Lakers have lost 10 of 13 games, with Jackson describing them as “free-falling for three weeks.”



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