In the hours following the devastating injury to Kobe Bryant, it was immediately fashionable (and on the surface, even logical) to pin the blame for it firmly on the shoulders of Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni.
Bryant had been playing an insane amount of minutes recently in an attempt to drag his team into the playoffs, and conventional wisdom said that D’Antoni should have exerted more control over his star player to prevent him from playing himself into an injury like this one.
But a torn Achilles is more of a random occurrence than it is an injury that happens due to being worn down, and Bryant’s personal trainer, Tim Grover, said as much on Saturday.
From Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News:
“It had nothing to do with the minutes he had been playing or anything of that sort,” Grover said in a phone interview with this newspaper. “A torn Achilles tendon is a very freaky injury. It’s just one of those things that just happened.”
Grover conceded the possibility that Bryant’s torn Achilles tendon could stem from the bone spurs in his left foot that he has had “for a while.” But Grover said it’s common for anyone to suffer the injury through every-day movements, such as climbing out of bed or stepping off a sidewalk.
“Everybody is trying to look at somebody to blame for it whether it be the coaching staff, Kobe, me or whatever it is. But everyone who is involved with him has to take responsibility in this. But it’s more of a freakish injury than anything else.”
If you want to continue to blame Bryant or D’Antoni for the injury, go right ahead. But this comes from as solid a source as there is on the matter, and we prefer to deal in reality here rather than in pure speculation.
There’s this overplayed angle talked about by some fans and pundits suggesting the Warriors just got lucky last season — for example, they faced a banged-up Rockets’ team in the conference finals then a Cavaliers’ squad without two of their big three through the Finals. Then there was Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers saying the Warriors were lucky not having to play the Clippers or Spurs in the postseason.
The Warriors are sick of hearing they were lucky.
Friday Klay Thompson fired back at Rivers, via CSNBayArea.com.
– “I wanted to play the Clippers last year, but they couldn’t handle their business.”
– “If we got lucky, look at our record against them last year (Warriors 3-1). I’m pretty sure we smacked them.”
– “Didn’t they lose to the Rockets? Exactly. So haha. That just makes me laugh. That’s funny. Weren’t they up 3-1 too?”
– “Yeah, tell them I said that. That’s funny. That’s funny.”
Warriors big man Andrew Bogut phrased it differently.
If you think the Warriors just won because they were lucky — you are dead wrong.
They were the best team in the NBA last season, bar none. They won 67 regular season games in a tough conference, then beat everyone in their path to win a title. Did they catch some breaks along the way, particularly with health? You bet. Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and Kobe Bryant didn’t win a title without catching some breaks along the way, either. Nobody does. Luck plays a role, but it was not the primary factor in why the Warriors are champs.
All this talk of them getting lucky is fuel for the fire they needed not to be complacent this season. Way to give the defending champs bulletin board material, Doc.
Dwyane Wade has earned his status as an elder statesman, the E.F. Hutton kind of veteran who speaks and everybody listens.
Rookie Justise Winslow is listening.
Winslow (who should have gone higher in this draft) is a perfect fit for the Heat and he’s going to be part of their rotation off the bench from the start of the season (along with Josh McRoberts and Amare Stoudemire). Wade has already fully stepped into the mentor role with Winslow working with him on post moves, reports Jason Lieser at the Palm Beach Post.
“As his career develops, hopefully he’s able to do multiple things on the floor, but right now there’s gonna be certain things (Erik Spoelstra) wants him to do, and some of those things I’m good at,” Wade said. “I’m just passing down knowledge to someone who I think could be good at things that I have strengths at. It’s gonna take a while, but if he figures it out at 21, he’s ahead of the curve. I figured it out at like 27.
“All of us are where we’re at because someone before us helped us. They helped by letting us sit there and watch film with them or having conversations with them. If he’s a student of it and he really wants to know, I’m a pretty decent teacher in certain areas.”
This is what you want out of a veteran leader and some of the young teams out there have done an excellent job adding this kind of mentor — Kevin Garnett in Minnesota may be the best example. Someone who can pass on his wisdom and show the team’s young players how to be a professional and win in the NBA.
It’s a little different for Winslow, he and the Heat are more in a win-now mode, but he should be able to contribute to that.