- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
- 0 Shares
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Mark Jackson is entering only his third season coaching the Golden State Warriors, so it's not as if he's picking from a vast wealth of experience, but there is one moment in that short amount of time he wishes he had a do-over for.
Jackson told reporters before the Warriors played the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday that he didn't like the way he handled Kobe Bryant's season-ending Achilles injury when the two teams played last April.
"I've never said this, but I've got one regret as a head coach in this league," Jackson said. "Just one regret. If I had known Kobe Bryant was hurt, I would have called a timeout. They would not have had to have committed a foul. That's how much respect I got for him."
Bryant tore his Achilles with 3:08 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Lakers trailing 109-107. Harrison Barnes was called for a foul as Bryant fell to the floor. Bryant stayed in the game and swished two free throws to tie the score at 109-109 before hobbling off the court under his own power.
Jackson is still awestruck by the fact that Bryant made both shots.
"I mean, he's legendary," Jackson said.
Steve Blake committed a foul after Bryant's free throws to allow the Lakers to sub him out of the game. Jackson said he did not know the severity of the injury, otherwise he would have called timeout to allow Bryant to exit the game without the competitive balance of the game being influenced by the Lakers burning a foul.
"I appreciate him as a competitor," Jackson said. "Even in the midst of going against him, I'm in the huddle going, 'Don't fall for the okie doke. He's all right. Don't allow him to take over this game.' Not knowing that he was really hurt."
The Lakers and Warriors played a set of games against each another in China this preseason and the occasion gave Jackson the chance to approach Bryant and let him know about the timeout he wish he had used. It was more on the level of the NBA's No. 3 all-time leader in assists talking to the league's No. 4 all-time leader in points, rather than the coach in the Pacific Division talking to the star player from the rival team some 375 miles down the I-5.
"I stopped and talked to him and let him know that," Jackson said. "I thought it was important to let him know that. And typical Kobe, he said, 'Thank you, I appreciate it,' but he said he's coming after us the next time he sees us. But I felt the same way, so he understood it. It's mutual respect and appreciation for one of the best to ever do it."
Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni also reflected on the last game Bryant played nearly 6 1/2 months ago.
"It was tough," D'Antoni said. "He was running on fumes at that point and he was doing everything he can to get us in the playoffs and he did. But, in a way, it just showed his heart and his determination and it was just too bad the way it ended."
While it is unknown when Bryant will return to the court this season, Jackson is confident in the five-time champion's chances when he does.
"He's proven," Jackson said. "He'll be fine. I don't look forward to facing him. As a fan of the game, you hope he comes back. You don't bet against a guy like that. I'm sure he'll come back and still be great."
3dESPN Stats & Information
7dChad Ford and Kevin Pelton