April 13, 2013

Kobe's season over, but not career

The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

Bryant said his teammates must "just continue to play. We've been dealing with injuries all year. I'll do what I can, watching film and communicating to the guys the best form of attacking certain teams, and go from there."

The Lakers' future is tied up in Bryant's health even beyond his vaunted scoring and leadership: He will make nearly $30.5 million next season in the final year of his deal. Los Angeles' uncertain offseason just got even weirder, with Dwight Howard's impending unrestricted free agency still looming largest in the mix.

Bryant has been ferociously competitive while trying to keep the Lakers' playoff hopes afloat. While Pau Gasol and Steve Nash have missed long stretches of play with injuries, and while Howard struggled to get to full strength after last year's back surgery, Bryant played through a sprained ankle and countless minor woes, missing only two games with injuries that could sideline other players for weeks.

After playing all 48 minutes while scoring 47 points in Portland on Wednesday, Bryant pushed the Lakers relentlessly forward on one good leg against the playoff-bound Warriors. Golden State got 47 points from Stephen Curry in a dynamic performance, but Bryant led a 9-0 run by hitting consecutive 3-pointers to tie it at 107 with 3:47 left.

"I hate it for Kobe," said first-year Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni, who has marveled at Bryant's toughness while discounting suggestions Bryant was playing too much. "I hate it for us. I hate it for L.A., but you have to close ranks. There's no going back now. ... He's just an unbelievable player with a heart, and it is unbelievable."

Bryant didn't know whether his heavy workload contributed to the injury.

"Who knows? It was all necessary," he said. "It's just a freak situation, I guess."

Bryant's teammates had little to say to him in the locker room, many still in disbelief over the latest injury to befall this high-priced roster.

"He's the greatest competitor, and he's been that all season long, all through his career," said Gasol, who had 26 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in his sixth career triple-double. "He's been an example for us throughout all this. He showed character. He showed heart, and that's what we're going to need from now on."

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