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Utah Jazz: Injured again, Kobe won't be coming to ESA

Published December 27, 2013 11:04 am

NBA • Lakers' leader was just six games into his comeback when he fractured his knee.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Kobe Bryant isn't coming to town.

Not this holiday season.

Bryant will miss Friday night's game against the Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena after fracturing a bone in his knee last week.

Bryant had just returned from off-season Achilles surgery, making his most recent injury doubly disappointing for the Lakers and the No. 4 scorer in NBA history.

The Jazz, of course, feel bad for Bryant.

In the dog-eat-dog world of the NBA, however, there isn't much sympathy for the struggling, short-handed Lakers.

"You don't feel sorry for them … because we're not really playing our best basketball, either," said Utah's Gordon Hayward. "We're trying to get wins any way we can."

The Lakers are 13-16 and have lost three straight heading into the game against the Jazz.

Along with Bryant, point guards Steve Nash and Steve Blake are sidelined with injuries, and center Pau Gasol will miss the Utah game because of a respiratory infection.

"This team is [still] dangerous," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "… They are team that can score. They are going to shoot fast and shoot often and shoot deep shots. We have to make sure we don't fall into the trap of playing at their pace."

Said Hayward: "They have guys who play hard and some talented guys who can score, too. Just because maybe they aren't as good as they usually are — they don't have Kobe or whatever — they're still good and always fun to play against."

The task of beating the Lakers, however, is obviously easier because of Bryant's absence. He was only six games into his comeback from Achilles surgery when he twisted his knee in the third quarter against Memphis.

Initially, Bryant didn't think the injury was serious. In fact, he returned in the fourth quarter, finished with 21 points and ended up playing a season-high 32 minutes in a 96-92 victory over the Grizzlies.

"I didn't know it was fractured," Bryant told reporters on Wednesday. "I was expecting a bone bruise more than anything else. I thought [the doctor] was joking when he told me."

The shock from the diagnosis was felt throughout the league, including Utah.

"You never want anybody to get hurt," Corbin said. "He's been such a competitor and good guy for the game — when he's on the floor. So we wish him well."

Said Hayward: "You hate to see anybody go down, especially somebody who's one of the faces of the NBA.

"We like to compete and [those] guys are our enemies when we're playing against them. At the same time, it's a brotherhood. … When somebody like Kobe goes down, it's tough to see."

Without Bryant, the Lakers have lost to Golden State (102-83), Phoenix (117-90) and Miami (101-95).

Following the 27-point defeat against the Suns, coach Mike D'Antoni was asked about the possibility of Lakers fans being "discouraged."

"… If they are discouraged then, you know, find another team to root for," he said.

D'Antoni apologized the next day, calling himself "an idiot" for making the comment.

The Lakers responded with a competitive effort against two-time champion Miami on Christmas, setting up their visit to Utah.

Is it a rivalry game for the Jazz?

"They are just a good team — a good franchise," Corbin said. "I think they are a lot of people's rival. You always get up to play the Lakers.

"Back in the day when I was playing, they were Magic and Kareem and those guys. When the Lakers came to town, it's was special. … It's always special."

luhm@sltrib.com

L.A. Lakers at Jazz

P At EnergySolutions Arena

Tipoff • 7 p.m.

TV • Root

Radio • 1280 AM, 1600 AM, 97.5 FM

Records • Jazz 8-23, Lakers 13-16

Season series • First game

Last meeting • Lakers, 102-84 (Jan. 25, 2013)

About the Jazz • They have lost four straight home games. … They are 4-1 in their last five games against the Lakers, going back to Feb. 4, 2012. … G/F Gordon Hayward is their leading scorer (16.4). … Among rotation regulars, F Richard Jefferson is the only player shooting over 40 percent from the three-point line (.414).

About the Lakers • They have lost three straight and seven of their last 10. … They come off a 101-95 loss to Miami on Christmas. … F Nick Young (15.7) and C Pau Gasol (14.7) are their leading scorers. … G Jodie Meeks shoots 41.4 percent on 3-pointers. … Opponents average 103.3 points per game — 28th in the league.