When Kobe Bryant takes the court today for a noon-time game against Dwayne Wade, LeBron James and the Heat, he will be wearing a protective mask. It will be the third time this week that what is being called the "Masked Mamba" will don the purple and gold.
While Bryant has had two colossal games, scoring 31 against Minnesota and 38 against the Kings, fans got a scare when it was reported that he suffered a slight concussion to go along with that broken nose. It necessitated him being cleared to play by a neurologist whose permission was the key to him returning to the court.
Dwayne Wade has a target on his back after the hard foul during last Sunday's All-Star game. Old-timers are suggesting that a retaliatory strike is necessary and expected. Those with softer edges believe that with Kobe exonerating Wade after the incident, that the two supposedly off-court pals will be cool with just moving along and playing this game, which was going to be a physical game to begin with.
Assuming there will be a hard foul given who will step up and take the responsibility? With the Lakers struggles scoring it shouldn't be Kobe, Pau or Andrew Bynum. The refs working the game will have their whistles at the ready and technical fouls or an ejection could be imposed whether or not the foul rises to the level or deserving one.
The only person who has spoken on the record about payback is Lakers center Andrew Bynum, who has a growing reputation as someone who takes cheap shots that injure people, even send them to the hospital. He ended his season with a mid-air push of Mavericks point guard J.J. Barea that earned him a four-game suspension to start this season.
He has one other hard foul suspension in his resume and just ask Portland's Gerald Wallace about the collapsed lung he suffered at the hands of Bynum. Bynum told Yahoo! Sports that he can't afford another suspension because it will be longer than before, in line with the NBA upping the ante with repeat offenders.
“If I do anything they’re going to definitely hit me. It sucks. It’s not good. It’s unfortunate. It’s something we got to deal with. I got Beasley, I got Barea and people blame me for the Gerald Wallace incident.”
Metta World Peace and Matt Barnes are the most likely men to be more than willing to step up and show the Heat they've got the Mamba's back. Derek Fisher could take the co-captain role seriously enough to show his loyalty.
The other suspects are bench warmers Josh McRoberts who is the proud owner of two technical fouls this season and Troy Murphy, although Murphy's three-point shooting has improved enough for him to get more minutes in the rotation.
All will be revealed at 12:30 p.m. today. As Terrell Owens once said, "Get the popcorn ready."
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