D’Antoni: Minutes didn’t cause Bryant injury
by Sam Amick, USA TODAY Sports
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni has heard the criticism, the claims in the media and among fans that he’s the man responsible for threatening the end of Kobe Bryant’s legendary career because of all those minutes that the 34-year-old logged.
But while D’Antoni has as much sympathy for Bryant as anyone after he tore the Achilles tendon in his left foot on Friday night and is expected to miss at least six months, he doesn’t agree with those who see it as direct result of the excessive playing time and said he would “probably do it again” if faced with the same situation.
“It was the decision that we had to make at the time, and it was the decision (that was made) with Kobe,” D’Antoni told USA TODAY Sports on Sunday before his team hosted San Antonio. “He was very insistent on it. I was a little reluctant, but he said he could do it. He felt great.
“We kept checking every day with the trainers and him — where are ya? How are ya? What are you doing? And to be honest with ya, I don’t think one has anything to do with the other.”
Bryant, who had played in 78 of 80 games in his 17th season, is second in the league in minutes played per game (38.6). As the Lakers made their playoff push in the last seven games and suffered just one loss in that stretch, Bryant averaged 45.6 minutes, 28.9 points (42.4% shooting), 8.4 assists, 7.3 rebounds and 3.4 turnovers. Yet while D’Antoni doesn’t see a connection between all that wear and the eventual Achilles tear, he admits that it would have been preferable to have Bryant play less.
“In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have played him that many minutes,” D’Antoni said. “But without (point guard Steve) Nash (who will miss his seventh consecutive game when the Lakers play San Antonio on Sunday with hip and hamstring soreness), (Bryant) said, ‘I’ve got to do that or we’re not going to make the playoffs.’ And for him, that was the most important … [For more on Mike D'Antoni: Minutes didn't cause Kobe Bryant injury, click here.]