LOS ANGELES - With a broken index finger on his shooting hand, a strained elbow and several additional woes that have come and gone this season, Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant is persevering through an spate of injuries without missing a game for the defending NBA champions.
"Injuries don't affect me," he said. "I'm not going to sit here and say I've got a (bad) knee, I've got a (bad) finger. I'm fine. I'm more than fine. I always keep playing."
Bryant's season-high 44-point performance in a 124-118 victory against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night propelled him past Denver's Carmelo Anthony into the NBA scoring lead with 30.4 points per game. He has averaged more than 38 points over the Lakers' past five outings, starting with a victory against Oklahoma City last week in which he was elbowed in the jaw before coming uncomfortably close to a major knee injury and dropping 40 on the Thunder.
What's more, Bryant is doing all this shooting and dribbling with an avulsion fracture - a fragment of bone torn away by a tendon or ligament - in his index finger, the most important digit for controlling his shot. He plays wearing a soft white protective padding that appears to be one of Mickey Mouse's fingers, and he sometimes resorts to left-handed shots in tough situations, using the ambidextrous shooting skills he has practiced since childhood.
"I don't know how he does what he does," Lakers forward Lamar Odom said. "I've never seen him have trouble adjusting because of injuries. It's one thing to play through an injury, but to play at the level he does with the injuries he has, it's crazy. We aren't surprised by anything now."