As he marveled at Kobe Bryant willing himself to carry the Lakers into the playoffs, something still irked general manager Mitch Kupchak.
Concerned over the consequences Bryant could face by playing heavy minutes, Kupchak spoke with the Lakers’ star about it.
“His message to me was, `Mitch, I hear what you’re saying, but we got to get into the playoffs,”‘ Kupchak recalled. “`I’m playing and there’s nothing you can do about it.”‘
Bryant underwent surgery Saturday to treat a left Achilles tendon injury the Lakers estimate will keep him out between six to nine months. Despite Bryant playing an average of 45.6 minutes per game in the last seven contests, Kupchak doesn’t hold Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni responsible for the injury.
“I don’t think Mike is at blame here,” Kupchak said. “Even if you take Kobe out of a game, there’s a lot of times where he’ll just get up and put himself back in.”
In between quarters, Bryant would either give D’Antoni a thumbs up signaling he can play or a thumbs down showing he needs rest. Bryant usually chose the former. D’Antoni also shared Bryant’s contention that his bone spurs in his left foot would stiffen if he sat out.
That plan fell apart, though, in the waning minutes of the Lakers’ win Friday over Golden State. Bryant fell on the ground after going past Warriors forward Harrison Barnes.
D’Antoni conceded that scenario might not have happened if not for the Lakers (43-37) entering tonight’s game against San Antonio with only a one-game lead over Utah (42-38) for the Western Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot with two games remaining.
“I would have thought about it if we were comfortably in the playoffs,” D’Antoni said. “When you’re trying to win at all costs, sometimes you make decisions that “Ehhh, maybe it would’ve been better if not.’ But at the time, you don’t know what was going to happen.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org