Kobe Bryant is sidelined after sustaining a torn left Achilles’ tendon, the workaholic confined to his bed to watch games on television after 17 years of going full bore.
Is Bryant using this time to relax, to take a break? Quite the contrary.
In each of the two games he has missed, Sunday against San Antonio and Wednesday against Houston, Bryant has either sent texts or called players during the game.
In Sunday’s win over the Spurs, Bryant called Lakers trainer Gary Vitti during halftime and asked to speak with Gasol. He told the forward to stay aggressive despite his struggles in the first half.
Then on Wednesday, Bryant once again reached out to his teammates.
Said Gasol: “I didn’t look at my phone [during the game], but I just saw a few messages that he sent to a few of us.”
In the messages, Bryant offered advice on how the team could improve its unproductive first half, a period in which the Lakers shot only 33.3% from the field.
Here’s Gasol’s description of what Kobe wrote:
“We had to bait their defense and try to hit the post, allow the double team to come and then kick it out to the shooters and open the defense up. That’s what we did better in the second half, and that’s what Kobe suggested. Very smart.”
After making those adjustments, the Lakers increased their offensive productivity by nearly 10%, shooting 42.4% from the field to take a lead into the final seconds before Chandler Parsons’ desperation three-pointer tied the game at the buzzer, sending it to overtime.
The Lakers went on to win, 99-95, to secure the seventh seed in the Western Conference playoffs. They will face San Antonio in the first round, which begins Sunday on the road.
Said Gasol: “The spirit of Mamba is with us at all times.”