Los Angeles Lakers: Jay Cutler

Cutler, Kobe, and Bynum: How we look at injuries

January, 25, 2011
1/25/11
12:30
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Sunday afternoon, before any diagnosis was made on the left knee of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, I joked with my dad about the result of the game.


Albert Pena/Icon SMI
How does Kobe's legendary toughness color the way we see the rest of the Lakers?


"If I'm him, I'm scheduling some sort of surgery on my leg this week. Even if its elective."

Not because I questioned whether the injury was legit, but because it was patently obvious Cutler would get destroyed among fans, and perhaps some in the media too. And this was before I saw what other players were tweeting about him. Cutler is a perfect target for this sort of thing: He comes off surly and detached, is the most frustrating player on the planet when it comes to fantasy play (don't scoff -- that matters), and has never won anything significant.

Healthy reserves of goodwill come in handy at times like these. That he found so little sympathy in the hours after the game isn't surprising.

His situation, though, raises big questions about how fans and media treat the injuries of players. In L.A., we're used to seeing Kobe Bryant play through physical problems that would land other players in street clothes, if not on the operating table, and generally playing very well. His toughness is legendary. Kobe treats his obligation to the game extraordinarily seriously.

Kobe's Kevlar nature is such a dominant part of the team's narrative it often projects negatively on other players and teammates. Everyone is compared to him. Lamar Odom has played through myriad physical problems over the last few seasons. I've watched him after games struggle to put on a shirt or limp back to his car. Still, toughness isn't nearly as large a part of his narrative as it should be. Continue on to Andrew Bynum. Too often hurt, seen as slow to heal. It wouldn't be a Lakers season without some undercurrent questioning whether Bynum is returning fast enough from an injury. It happened this year, it happened a year ago, and the year before that. He bought himself some goodwill with a gritty performance in the playoffs a season ago, but there will always be fans who question Bynum's ability to stay healthy and his willingness to play in and through pain.

The former is reasonable -- he has often been hurt -- the latter far more dicey.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Nick Young
PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.4
AssistsK. Bryant 6.3
StealsK. Bryant 1.2
BlocksW. Johnson 1.0