Heat stars saddened by Kobe’s injury

MIAMI — Like seemingly everyone in the NBA, LeBron James was saddened by the season-ending injury to Kobe Bryant. But James said it’s not going to change anything he does.

The Miami Heat star doesn’t plan to be extra cautious. He said it won’t affect how much he might play with USA Basketball during future summers.

“If you play your professional life worried about injuries, you’re never going to be able to maximize your potential,” James said. “You can’t do that. You just got to go out and play. And it happened. And it’s a terrible thing … But you can’t say, ‘OK, I’m not playing this game because I’m afraid of injury or I’m not playing this summer if the opportunity is there.’ There is going to be a time when you can’t play the game at all because Father Time has caught up with you. So try to do as much as you can when you can.’’

The Heat’s 105-93 win Sunday at American Airlines Arena was their first game since the Los Angeles Lakers star went down late Friday night with a torn Achilles tendon. James has played with Bryant on Olympic gold-medal-winning teams in 2008 and 2012, and the two have been considered the top two players in the NBA for a good part of the past decade.

“It was very sad and it just emotionally, I couldn’t feel for him because no one can feel exactly what he’s going through,’’ James said of his thoughts when Bryant went down. “But I was like, ‘Damn.’ As a competitor and as one of the colleagues, I mean you never want an injury for anyone. But it’s like the same like when Derrick Rose went down (with a knee surgery last April for Chicago). And Kobe going down, you just know how competitive he is … I’ve been on two Olympic teams with him. I know how much work he puts into the game. I was sad for him, man. It was like, ‘Damn.’ ’’

Miami guard Dwyane Wade and center Chris Bosh also were on the 2008 Olympic team with Bryant. Wade sent out a tweet Saturday morning offering support to Bryant.

“Obviously, it’s unfortunate that this happened,’’ Wade said after Sunday’s game. “He was having a hell of a year. You talk about somebody willing a team to a goal, he was doing that. So losing Kobe for our game, it’s not anything that we want to do. But the only thing you think of when you see someone like and you hear his interview, you know that he’s going to do everything in his power to come back and be the Kobe Bryant that everybody has become accustomed to. So you can believe it when he said it.’’

James dismissed any talk Bryant’s career could be over. Bosh also fully expects him to return.

“Man, it’s tough. You never want to see anybody go down with a serious injury like that,’’ Bosh said. “I hope he bounces back well. Hopefully, knowing him with his mentality, he’ll see this as a challenge and really attack it like he needs to and stay mentally tough.’’

Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said he was “sick to my stomach’’ when Bryant went down. However, he said he can’t let anything like that change his coaching strategy at all.

Spoelstra, who wanted to get the Big Three of James, Wade and Bosh one final good run together this regular season, did just that Sunday. With the Heat having their playoff position locked up, Wade played 37 minutes, two more than his average, James logged 35, three under his average, and Bosh played 31, two under his average.

Chris Tomasson can be reached at christomasson@hotmail.com

or on Twitter @christomasson.