The Los Angeles Lakers met for practice on Saturday after a crazy Friday night that included a nail-biting victory over the Golden State Warriors and their franchise player Kobe Bryant rupturing his Achilles tendon.
Whether anyone slept on Friday night is debatable, and Bryant confirmed he was awake as late as 3:30 a.m. PT by venting his medicated thoughts on Facebook. The injury expected to keep the lifelong Laker out for about six to nine months, assuming no major setbacks.
The pace at which Bryant went from hero carrying the team into the playoffs to a martyr fast-tracked to sainthood was less than 24 hours. Bryant’s 34 points on Friday night were erased by the images of the newest social media guru undergoing an MRI and getting prepped for surgery.
Practice started with Gary Vitti, the Lakers head athletic trainer for nearly three decades, clarifying that blaming the coach and saying the 34-year-old was driven to the injury was misguided. Vitti essentially said it was bad luck, and that predicting injuries like Bryant's is impossible to do.
"Obviously, when something like this happens, everybody wants to know why," Vitti started out. "And there’s not always a reason why. If you look at our season, it’s been a nightmare.
"We had a player come in with a surgery -- which was Dwight Howard. Then, we had Steve Nash break his leg. Then, we had Steve Blake have an abdominal surgery. Then, we had Jordan Hill with a hip surgery. Then, we had Metta (World Peace) with a knee surgery. We also had Dwight with a labrum in his shoulder. Antawn Jamison will have surgery after the season is over on his wrist."
"It’s bad luck," Vitti concluded. "Lots of guys rupture their Achilles tendons and don’t play 48 minutes, so to make that correlation, I don’t think is fair."
General manager Mitch Kupchak echoed Vitti’s sentiments, and the organization was not in the business of blaming head coach Mike D’Antoni for playing Bryant heavy minutes.
When asked about Bryant being ready for game one of next season, Kupchak said, "I think that’s a goal. I think that’s a realistic goal for him based on what he was talking about this morning."
For the next two games, the minds of the Laker team will be on the playoffs, but the hearts of anyone who follows the team will be aching for another moment of magic from the man who calls himself "mamba."
Get well soon, Kobe.