Kobe Bryant made an ordinary move to the basket, putting his head down and pushing off his back foot. Only this time, it ended with Bryant wincing and crumpling to the ground.
The diagnosis: A torn Achilles’ tendon.
The result: The Lakers’ playoff hopes possibly crumpling right along with their star.
Bryant will have an MRI on Saturday to confirm the bad news already reported by him and his team.
“I can’t walk,” Bryant said following the Lakers’ 118-116 win Friday over Golden State. “… There’s just nothing there.”
Bryant looked as if he had just finished crying when speaking to reporters. He talked of what a difficult season it has been. He declared he believed the Lakers can win their final two games and nab the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.
“I’m confident,” Bryant said.
It would be hard to envision Bryant saying anything else. He is, after all, a champion.
But a big reason Kobe is a champion is because of Kobe. Even with him, this year’s Lakers were inconsistent and underachieving.
Without him, they may be finished.
The Lakers host San Antonio and Houston to close the season. They currently hold a one-game lead over Utah for the last playoff spot.
But it’ll be quite an achievement if the Lakers even win one of their final two, based on how things were going with Bryant.
The Jazz play at Minnesota and at Memphis. They own the tiebreaker over the Lakers — meaning if the teams finish with identical records, the Jazz go to the postseason. The Lakers go nowhere.
This isn’t just a battle between the Lakers and Jazz, either.
If the Lakers make the playoffs, the Cavs will get the Lakers’ draft pick. If not, the Cavs get Miami’s. That’s a difference of about 15 picks, as the Heat have already clinched the NBA’s best record. So they’ll be drafting 30th.
If the Lakers miss the playoffs, however, their pick goes to Phoenix. That means the Suns not only get their own lottery pick, but the one belonging to LA.
Of course, the Lakers aren’t concerned about any of that.
Clearly, they have more pressing issues. They don’t know when or if the 34-year old Bryant will play again.
There has even been some talk they may want to use the amnesty clause to waive Bryant, as cruel as that may seem, to clear space under the salary cap. One sensible reason is that Dwight Howard, the Lakers’ future, becomes a free agent at season’s end.
Still, despite the talk, it’s hard to envision the Lakers parting ways with Bryant over the summer — or ever. He just means too much to the franchise and the city.
Either way, the Lakers’ focus is on finding a way to close the year on a high note, get into the playoffs, and see where things go from there.
But like Bryant’s Achilles’ tendon, the prognosis looks pretty awful.