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Kobe Bryant's injury and the diminishing value of a playoff spot

Published April 12, 2013 11:55 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Kobe Bryant turned in one latest, hopefully not last, great performance Friday night in Los Angeles. He crumpled to the floor, pulled himself up, sank two free throws to give him 36 points and announced himself to have torn his Achilles tendon.

As Jazz fans know, an Achilles injury devastates a career.

Pending an MRI, we'd best reserve judgment of what this means in the grand scheme of things — the man's career, his livelihood — and in the short-term — a race for the playoffs. But when you look at Bryant's minutes per game over the last seven games, you find this: 47, 47, 42, 47, 41, 48 and, on Friday, 42.

You look at that, and have to wonder. Was it worth it? The prize was the last spot in the playoffs, where Kobe said the Lakers would "start the f*** over." Bryant is perhaps the greatest competitor in the game. He knew what he was doing to his body. At 34 years old, there is no rotating the tires and continuing the road trip. Was it coach Mike D'Antoni's fault? We'll hear in coming days how much say he had in Bryant's minutes, but it's hard to imagine Bryant didn't want to be on the floor. Or even that he wouldn't do it again. Just a troubling turn of events.

The Jazz beat Minnesota 107-100 on Friday, and the Lakers outlasted Golden State 118-116. Los Angeles remains one game ahead of the Jazz in the playoff chase. But no matter how deeply the hate of Kobe Bryant as an opponent runs among Jazz fans, this is not the way you want your team to reach the playoffs.

— Bill Oram