|ESPN.com: NBA||[Print without images]|
|An emotional Kobe Bryant said of his injury: "I tried to maybe put pressure on my heel, but there was nothing there."|
"This is not Kobe's fault, because he pushed himself. This is not the coaches' fault. People get hurt. An Achilles is just one of those things that just happens. You can't blame anyone on this one." Grover said it won't be clear how long Bryant's recovery timetable will be until doctors operate and survey the extent of the damage, but unless something unexpected happens, he believes this will just be a setback. "I can't see him not wanting to do this and to come back as Kobe Bryant, the way we know Kobe Bryant," he said.
Bryant, who played an average of 45.7 minutes in his past seven games including Friday's leading up to the injury, was asked if all the playing time could have left him vulnerable. "Who knows," Bryant said. "It was all necessary. It's just a freak situation, I guess." Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni was asked about the decision to leave the 34-year-old Bryant in so long. "It is like putting my head against a wall and he just wouldn't budge on (resting)," D'Antoni said. "And there is a part of me that didn't want him to budge because he's incredible. It is one of those things. If I had it all to do over again, then maybe (I would sit him). I will second-guess it and look at it, but he is an incredible competitor and it happened and we will go forward." Bryant finishes the season with averages of 27.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 6.0 assists. Bryant wrote an impassioned and lengthy post on his Facebook page early Saturday morning. "All the training and sacrifice just flew out the window with one step that I've done millions of times!" he wrote. "The frustration is unbearable. The anger is rage. Why the hell did this happen ?!? Makes no damn sense. Now I'm supposed to come back from this and be the same player Or better at 35?!? How in the world am I supposed to do that??" "I have NO CLUE," Bryant wrote before saying it felt good to vent. "Do I have the consistent will to... overcome this thing? Maybe I should break out the rocking chair and reminisce on the career that was. Maybe this is how my book ends. Maybe Father Time has defeated me...Then again maybe not! It's 3:30am, my foot feels like dead weight, my head is spinning from the pain meds and I'm wide awake." Bryant's body of work over his career made him about as old a 34-year-old as one can get. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Bryant has played 54,755 total minutes in official pro competition since entering the NBA in the 1996-97 season. The playoffs and time with Team USA equate to roughly 3.2 additional "seasons" played. So in all, Bryant has actually played roughly 20.5 seasons' worth of in-game minutes. Pau Gasol, the only teammate on the Lakers roster to have won two championships with Bryant, was shaken by the news. "It's just a tough hit, tough blow for everyone and for the ones who love him and have a great respect for him, even more," Gasol said with tears in his eyes. "So it's a difficult time. I feel for him. "It's hard for me to see him like that. He doesn't deserve it. ... I hate that it happened to him. He works so hard. He's the most dedicated guy that I ever met, and he had the courage and the strength to talk to (the media). I don't know if I could have done it. So, again that's very remarkable." Bryant's injury was just another on a long list of them for the Lakers this season, from Steve Nash's leg, hip and hamstring to Gasol's tendinitis, torn plantar fascia and concussion to Steve Blake's groin and abdomen, World Peace's knee, Jordan Hill's hip and Dwight Howard's back and shoulder. "It's just sad for Kobe. We've been faced with injuries all years. When somebody gets healthy, somebody else goes down. It's tough," said Howard. "I could just see it in his face. When you injure yourself to the point where you can't play, it hurts. It's a deep hurt." The Lakers were able to hold on to beat the Warriors without Bryant and have a one-game lead over Utah with two games left to play for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Lakers host the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday and finish off the regular season Wednesday at home against the Houston Rockets. "I'm going to be there still," said Bryant, who added he was "confident" that his team could fulfill his playoff guarantee without having him in uniform. "I can't be with them out there on the floor, but I can use my intellect to try to break down film and try to help them see things that they might not see and try to help as much as I can from the sideline and the film room and go from there." Information from ESPNLosAngeles.com's Ramona Shelburne was used in this report.