The instant Xavier Henry fell down on the basketball court and ruptured his left Achilles during Monday’s practice, Kobe Bryant returned to another dark moment.
It was only 19 months ago that Bryant tore his left Achilles tendon in a regular-season game against Golden State, an injury that sidelined him for the following eight months and damaged the Lakers’ playoff fortunes.
“I knew exactly what he was feeling,” Bryant said. “It took me right back to that place again.”
Bryant fell down as he drove toward the lane late in the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ eventual win on April 12, 2013 against the Golden State Warriors. Henry fell down during a non-contact drill of three-on-three during Monday’s practice. Henry then had surgery on Tuesday morning to treat an injury that will sideline him for the remainder of the 2014-15 season.
“It’s exactly the same situation,” Bryant said. “I just tried to give him some comfort. He was really down. Having just gone through it, I completely understand. He was really angry and frustrated.”
Bryant initially reported feeling the same way, realizing that both the futures for the Lakers and himself hung in the balance. But Bryant eventually returned in eight months, but then he played in only six games last season before suffering a season-ending left knee injury.
“I tried to tell him you’re 23 years old. You’ll bounce back just fine from this,” Bryant said. “You have to try the positive things in it and try to find a silver lining in it.”
Henry will soon face the same obstacles Bryant encountered with a prolonged recovery that entails plenty of patience, monotonous physical therapy and uncertainty. But their circumstances are obviously different.
Bryant’s uncertainty stemmed from how well he could recover to remain among the NBA’s elite again. Yet, the Lakers immediately showed their trust and devotion to Bryant both by refusing to waive him through the amnesty provision and by granting him a two-year, $48.5 million extension about a month before his return. Henry’s uncertainty stems from how well he can recover from wide-ranging injuries that included a left wrist and right knee that required off-season surgery. After averaging a career-high 10 points per game last season, Henry only averaged 2.2 points per game in nine appearances this season. Although the Lakers expect Henry to have a complete recovery by the 2015-16 season, he will become a free agent this offseason.
“I’m trying to keep him positive,” Bryant said. “It’s an uphill battle and long hill at that. He’ll have us and have me every step of the way.”