Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Portland Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony, a close friend of Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant, will miss Friday night's game against the Lakers for "personal reasons," the team announced.
Friday's game at Staples Center in Los Angeles will be the first for the Lakers since Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others died in a helicopter crash Sunday in Calabasas, Calif. The Lakers' matchup against the L.A. Clippers on Tuesday night was postponed due to the tragedy.
"I respect [Anthony's decision to sit out]. I know him and Kobe had a great relationship," Trail Blazers star guard Damian Lillard told reporters. "It's something he was not ready to face and deal with. We all respect his decision."
Anthony and Bryant became close friends when they teamed up together on the 2008 and 2012 U.S. Olympic teams. Anthony posted an emotional tribute to the Lakers icon on social media earlier this week, in which he said Bryant told him that he was planning to attend Friday's game between the Blazers and Lakers.
"I hate when I have so much to say, but I can't put any of it into words," Anthony wrote Tuesday on Instagram. "The times I have the most to say are the times that I can't talk. I'm screaming inside but I can't be heard. You don't know how hard it is to try to pretend to smile when I have these clouds of emotions.
"This pain is almost unbearable Champ! Why you bro? Why GiGi? Why leave Vanessa with this sadness and pain. Why? This will never make sense to me. I know I'm not supposed to question God's will. I know God doesn't make mistakes. It just seems like it always rains the hardest on those who deserve the sun."
Anthony played in the Trail Blazers' 139-129 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Sunday. The All-Star forward also played in Portland's 125-112 win over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night, but he acknowledged after the game that he was unsure about facing the Lakers at Staples Center.
The Lakers' matchup against the Trail Blazers is scheduled for 10 p.m. EST and will air on ESPN.