NEW ORLEANS (AP) -Wearing a black brace on his injured right hand, Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant sat out the Western Conference's light practice on Saturday but still expects to start in Sunday's NBA All-Star game.
Bryant, the MVP in last year's game, has a torn pinkie ligament from dislocating the finger on Feb. 5 in a game against New Jersey. Although surgery has been recommended, Bryant wants to keep playing and postpone any operation until after the Beijing Olympics in August.
While his teammates broke a sweat doing some half-speed drills and shooting during a 25-minute workout, Bryant sat on the bench. At the end of practice, Bryant heaved up one shot - left-handed.
Bryant would prefer not to play Sunday night, but he doesn't have a choice. League policy dictates that if a player is healthy enough to play in the final game before the All-Star break and the first one after, he has too play in the midseason event.
West squad but doesn't expect to play much. He understands the importance of not risking injury to help the Lakers in the second half of the season.
``I have an obligation to the organization to get ready to play,'' he said.
Bryant also knows he could worsen the injury.
``It's always a concern,'' he said. ``If I dislocate it again I'll have some issues, so I just have to be very careful about it.''
Bryant may only play a few minutes before he takes a seat, something he's not looking forward to.
``I'm OK with doing whatever I need to do,'' he said. ``I love playing in these games so the fact that I'm hurt bums me out. I enjoy competing on this stage with the best players in the world. I wish I wasn't injured.''

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