Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Whose fault is Kobe’s injury? Could it have been avoided?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I’m not blaming Bryant for coming back too soon – Derrick Rose took a whole season off and look what happened. The Lakers had to rely on Bryant’s assessment of the risks vs. the rewards, so no reason to fault them there. What I do take issue with is the zeal, the irrational exuberance, with which management committed $48 million to Bryant in that contract extension, limiting their payroll and roster flexibility while bidding against exactly no one for PR purposes. That has blown up on them, taking its place in the Bad Decision Hall of Same alongside the Trojans and that wooden horse, and the folks who greenlighted “Gigli.”
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Kobe was aggressive yet cautious in going through a full throttle rehabilitation on his torn Achilles’ tendon. He was under the guidance of the Lakers medical team all the way. Kobe felt he was ready to play and they felt he was ready to play. Let’s not go completely over the edge with second-guessing. Sometimes injuries just happen. Especially when you’re 35.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Chances are this was just a freak thing that happens, much like the fractured leg Steve Nash suffered early last season. Did Kobe come back too soon? Did he play too much, logging 32, 32 and 33 minutes in the last three games of four-in-five-nights stretch? We just can’t answer that. What’s imperative now is that Kobe fully recover from this second injury, get his body right and refrain from playing Superman once he returns in an attempt to make a late charge into a playoff spot. Be satisfied by overcoming this adversity and set sights on next season and beyond.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Stuff happens. If it comes out that someone knew Bryant should not have played in the fourth quarter and that using him made the injury worse, there are serious problems. But if this was the same injury that could happen to any player in any game, as it seems, no fault.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: I’m not a doctor, so I have no idea and it would be silly for me to speculate.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: This is just bad karma, a black cat hanging around the Staples Center or the basketball Gods balancing the scales on the Lakers back for all those banners. But this is a no-fault situation. Freak injuries cannot be avoided, not even when there is a small mountain of evidence that suggests otherwise. To see Kobe’s comeback short-circuited in this way, however, no doubt raises concerns that he maybe pushed things a bit. Derrick Rose will be called to testify to the folly of that theory. Kobe could have given himself all the time in the world to recover from that Achilles injury and still taken that one false step and fractured his knee anyway. Since cooler heads never prevail in these instances, though, let’s slice up the blame pie three ways. Kobe, the Lakers and the rest of us all deserve our fair share for wanting him back more than we cared about the physical ramifications a player past his physical prime could face trying to circumvent conventional wisdom in regards to his recovery. We freaked out every time he took a step without a limp, gawked when he ran on the ant-gravity treadmill, got googly-eyed flushed a meaningless dunk in practice and hailed his “early” return to live action. The man is a mere mortal, and not a figment of our foolish imaginations in terms of what even the greatest of our athletic superstar heroes seem to be. Ultimately, there’s no fault to be assigned and absolutely no way to avoid the fact that even the fanciest of sports cars break down over the course of time.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com: If I’ve learned anything in 15 years covering the NBA (debatable, I know) it’s that you never question injuries. And while it’s human nature to second-guess something like this, there’s no way to know who to blame or how to blame or whatever. Stuff happens. And sometimes that sucks. Nature of the beast, though.