EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Kobe Bryant told his Los Angeles Lakers teammates he's sorry he has to miss two games. He's not saying sorry to Reggie Miller.
"I apologized to my teammates, that I can't join them on the court. But not as far as he goes, no," said Bryant, with one game remaining on his two-game suspension for starting a fight with Indiana's Miller on Friday night.
"The fact of the matter is, I made a mistake. It wasn't the best decision in the world. I have to deal with consequences. I'll just move on and continue to grow and mature as a man," Bryant, 23, said Monday after practice as the Lakers prepare to face the New Jersey Nets on Tuesday.
Asked about a small scrape on the left side of his face, Bryant smiled and said, "It's like a little baby scratch. He got a lot more than I did."
Miller also was suspended for two games and fined $10,000, and the Pacers complained that he didn't deserve it.
Bryant, on the other hand, was surprised that his own punishment wasn't worse. Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal was suspended for three games for taking a swing at Brad Miller, then with Chicago, in January.
"I deserved it. I probably deserved a little bit more," Bryant said of his two-game banishment and $12,500 fine. "I don't believe fighting is the answer, I don't. But sometimes as a man, you have to do what you have to do."
The Lakers' All-Star wouldn't reveal what words were exchanged before he launched a roundhouse right at Miller near midcourt moments after the Lakers beat the Pacers on Friday night.
"That stays on the court, between me and him," Bryant said. "This stuff's happened in the past with this guy. He's done this before in his career. I reacted out of frustration, out of anger, I guess."
Asked about Miller's comment that the Lakers' guard has "other issues he has to deal with," Bryant said, "Reggie doesn't know me at all, and I never argue with fools, never; it's a waste of time."
Bryant, who last season at times feuded with O'Neal and coach Phil Jackson, is at least glad it wasn't infighting.
"It's better to fight against the opposition than it is to fight amongst ourselves. Last year we were fighting amongst but we pulled through just fine," he said.
Jackson is not particularly worried that Bryant will fly off the handle again anytime soon.
"We talked about it yesterday, and I said just dial it down another degree. You can still be aggressive and be feisty and be combative, but we don't need belligerent, that's over the edge," the coach said.
"We've all trusted Kobe's instincts. He's been a natural out here in this world of high visibility and public demeanor. He's got a great personality, a winning way about him and a winning smile. Last year, he went through a hard trial of injury, a little bit of coach abuse when he and I locked horns a few times. We found a way to get ourselves through that and have a tremendously successful postseason.
"This year, we've got nothing but a lot of grins and a lot of good times out here."
O'Neal, who wore Bryant's No. 8 jersey during warmups before Sunday night's 95-79 win over Houston, said Bryant showed him something when he scuffled with Reggie Miller.
"It just shows you that a kid with that much poise is human. All the things he's done, all the pressure he's been under, I'm glad he did it. It just shows me that he's human. I thought he wasn't human," O'Neal said.
Asked how tight Bryant's jersey was on him, O'Neal said it was as snug as a bikini on the beach. Bryant liked the fact his jersey might be a little roomier the next time he wears it.
"I'm happy he stretched out for me since the NBA rules make you wear tight little John Stockton uniforms," Bryant said with a grin. "I was kind of hoping he'd wear my shorts."
O'Neal shook his head and said, "No."
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