LOS ANGELES -- Kobe Bryant continues to make progress in his recovery from a torn Achilles' tendon, but not enough to play for the Lakers.
San Antonio's Tim Duncan suffered a chest contusion and also did not play Friday, making it the first time since Nov. 22, 1996, that these teams met without either Bryant or Duncan. Duncan was still at Wake Forest and Bryant didn't get off the bench in that game 17 years ago.
But unlike many players of their era, Bryant and Duncan have continued to defy the years, injuries and odds to compete at a high level. Allen Iverson was the latest player of their class to retire, calling it quits Thursday after not playing the past four years. Derek Fisher also has announced this will be his last season.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said there aren't many players left like Bryant, 35, and Duncan, 37, who combined have played 23 NBA seasons. He called them "special."
"It comes from within," Popovich said Friday. "They're competitive, they have a mental toughness, they're willing to be consistent leaders, competitors night after night. That's what competitors do (and) they do it night after night after night.
"A lot of people have good nights, but people like those two understand that it's their responsibility to do it night after night. That's what makes them different."
Lakers fans can only hope Byrant returns to his previously competitive form.
While Duncan is not expected to miss many games -- a CT scan showed the Spurs center did not suffer any fractures -- Bryant said Friday there still isn't any timetable for his return.
Bryant said he has been running more aggressively on the anti-gravity treadmill at the Lakers training facility as well as flat surfaces. Although he claimed this past week great in terms of his comeback, he said he still lacks flexibility and motion.
"It's from having the ankle locked up for so long," Bryant said. "If you don't have that flexibility or range of motion, there's a domino effect on the rest of the body."
And Bryant isn't willing to risk having to take another hiatus. He wants to make only one comeback this season, whenever that might be. Bryant has said he needs three weeks to get into playing shape once he's sure of the leg's stability.
"This (week) is a good start," Bryant said. "I was able to run and run pretty well. ... I would probably count this week."
Xavier Henry suffered a gash to his forehead after colliding with teammate Wesley Johnson in the second quarter. He hit his head on Johnson's knee and required nine stitches to close the 2-inch cut.
The Lakers seemed to deflate after Henry's injury as their 13-point lead dwindled to one by halftime. The Lakers could have used Henry's scoring.
Henry, a training camp invitee, is averaging a team-high 18 points along with five rebounds. Henry's aggressive shooting even caught Bryant by surprise.
"I'm surprised about the amount of game he brought," Bryant said. "In New Orleans, he got to dribble the ball only two times (before shooting). So I didn't know what he could do. He sort of surprised us all with his overall skills."
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