OAKLAND — The Lakers have won once and lost once, but there’s a thread connecting both games this season.
Opposing coaches keep lining up to praise Kobe Bryant.
They’re probably thankful he’s not playing, but they still kiss his five championship rings while talking with reporters beforehand.
Golden State Coach Mark Jackson called Bryant “legendary” and then admitted something unusual before the Warriors’ victory Wednesday over the Lakers.
Bryant, coincidentally, sustained a torn Achilles’ tendon against the Warriors last April.
“I never said this, but I have one regret being a head coach in this league,” Jackson said. “If I would have known that Kobe Bryant was hurt, I would’ve called a timeout. They would not have had to commit a foul.
“That’s how much respect I have for him. I appreciate him as a competitor even in the midst of going against him. I was in the huddle saying, ‘Don’t fall for it. He’s all right. Don’t allow him to take over this game.’ Not knowing he was really hurt.”
Bryant was injured with 3:08 to play in that game, falling to the court after his left foot buckled while he drove toward the basket. He was actually fouled on the play by Harrison Barnes and called time out but briefly stayed in the game to make two free throws. The Lakers then committed an intentional foul and Bryant walked slowly off the court with Robert Sacre.
There is still no timetable for his return.
Jackson said he apologized to Bryant two weeks ago in China, where the Warriors and Lakers played two exhibitions against each other.
“I thought it was important to let him know that,” Jackson said. “And typical Kobe, he said, ‘Thank you, and I’m coming after you guys next time I see you.’ ”
Clippers Coach Doc Rivers, like Jackson, was complimentary. He said he wasn’t sure he wanted to see Bryant play in the season opener between the teams.
“The competitive side of me says yes. The rational side of me might think other things,” Rivers said. “He’s a rare one. He’s a one-percenter.”
The quiet man
It’s only a small sample size, but Bryant is taking a more low-key approach during games.
When sidelined in the past, he took part in team huddles during timeouts and remained a constant presence. Or he jumped on Twitter with his views of a Lakers game, although that happened only once after the concept was panned by critics.
He hasn’t wandered into the huddle this season, choosing instead to sit behind the team bench and talk to players one on one.
There’s no right or wrong here. It’s just different.
Against the Clippers on Tuesday, he sat next to the Lakers’ team doctor, chatted briefly with Elgin Baylor and occasionally talked with players as they approached the end of the bench.
He called Pau Gasol over to tell him something strategic in the fourth quarter and smiled broadly when Jodie Meeks hit a late three-pointer in the Lakers’ 116-103 victory.
“He talked to me, he talked to different guys while he was on the bench,” Gasol said. “He did the same with Jordan [Farmar] and other guys. He’s still active.”
Bryant went with the team for its one-game trip to Golden State and came out to the bench in the third quarter, again assuming a relatively low profile as he sat next to Lakers physical therapist Judy Seto.