Kobe Bryant supported his Lakers teammates from the bench against the Heat on Christmas Day. (AP)
Kobe Bryant leads the NBA with 15 Christmas Day appearances, but a knee injury left the Lakers' superstar feeling "strange" but determined to return this season.
Bryant held court with the media prior to Wednesday's Lakers-Heat game in Los Angeles, admitting how strange it was not to be taking the floor against Miami superstars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the two-time defending NBA champions.
"It's strange to be coming in on Christmas and not playing," he said before the Lakers hosted the streaking Miami Heat on Wednesday. "It's a foreign feeling, but I'm here to support my guys."
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Bryant said he's been riding a bike since being diagnosed with a fracture in his left knee last week, and he's still expected to miss four to six weeks -- but he feels fortunate that his injury wasn't more severe.
"I was fortunate that it was not a meniscus," he said. "I didn't know it was fractured," he said. "I was expecting a bone bruise more than anything else. I thought (the doctor) was joking when he told me."
The Lakers began the season without Bryant, who tore an Achilles tendon late last season. He returned on Dec. 8, but was injured again on Dec. 19 while playing in his fourth game in five nights.
Always on the look out for motivational material, Bryant said he's taken note of skeptics suggesting he won't return this season, or even fulfill his two-year, $48.5 million contract extension signed in November..
"It's the same old tune, just being sung a little more loudly now," he said. "These type of things just help me lock in more."
Asked if there's any chance he won't be back, Bryant replied, "Not that I'm aware of."
"My spirits are fine," he said. "I feel more locked in now than my entire career."