With two seconds left in L.A.’s 96-92 Wednesday night loss at Atlanta, Kobe Bryant rose for one of his patented shots, a fadeaway jumper from the baseline, attempting to tie a game he’d brought within reach with a turnaround three on the previous possession.
Bryant not only missed, but landed on the foot of Dahntay Jones and severely sprained his left ankle. Bryant was upset about the play, not just because no foul was called when Jones slid underneath him, but because of the way Jones defended him:
“It’s just a very, very dangerous play,” Bryant said. “Especially if I’m fading away, there’s no rhyme or reason why I should come down anywhere near somebody’s foot.”
Bryant said Jones “Jalen Rose’d” him, referring to the 2000 NBA Finals against Indiana, when Bryant landed on Rose’s foot and severely sprained his ankle, forcing him to miss a game. Kobe allowed that this is the worst he’s sprained an ankle since the Rose incident, which the ESPN analyst later admitted on his Grantland.com podcast was intentional.
On his @dahntay1 Twitter account, Jones argued otherwise: “Tape doesn’t lie. Ankle was turned on the floor after the leg kick out that knocked him off balance. I would never try to hurt the man.”
When Jones played for Denver, he had two incidents while defending Bryant in the 2009 Western finals, tripping Kobe on one play and pushing him in the back on another. He was hit with flagrant fouls for both. A reporter asked Bryant if Jones did it on purpose.
“I don’t ever want to put that on somebody,” he responded. “I really don’t. I just think players need to be made conscious of it. I think officials need to protect shooters. Period.”
The NBA agreed with Bryant, stating on Thursday that the play should have been whistled a foul, since Jones moved in and did not allow Bryant space to land. A foul would have granted Kobe two foul shots, and a chance to tie the game at 94.
Bryant’s focus is on the literally constant rehabilitation he’s been doing with head athletic trainer Gary Vitti and his training staff (these are Vitti’s hands around Bryant’s very swollen ankle). Team physical therapist Dr. Judy Seto – who alongside Vitti has helped keep Bryant on the court throughout much of his career – is among those working on Kobe at the team’s hotel in Indianapolis.
Bryant also appears ready to move on from the incident, after acknowledging that he’s happy to share his opinion:
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) March 14, 2013
Bryant is officially listed as “out indefinitely,” and thus not necessarily out for any specific number of games, including Friday’s at Indiana. We’ll see where things stand after the team’s shootaround on Friday morning for the only Laker yet to miss a game this season.