The Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night, but the defeat might be the least of the team’s problems.
Kobe Bryant suffered a severe left ankle sprain with 3.9 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. The shooting guard was forced to leave the game after he landed on Dahntay Jones’s foot when attempting a jump shot.
The team has stated that Bryant is out indefinitely, though X-rays were negative. The Lakers next game is on Friday against the Indiana Pacers. Bryant’s status is unknown, though it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll be in the lineup.
After the game, Bryant blamed Jones for the injury, suggesting it might have been a dirty play.
"As defensive players, you can contest shots, but you can't walk underneath players," Bryant said. "That's dangerous for the shooter."
Bryant even took to Twitter to vent about the play that may cost him multiple games.
"#dangerousplay that should have been called. Period," tweeted Bryant.
The future Hall of Famer compared the incident to Game 2 of the 2000 NBA Finals, when Jalen Rose forced Bryant out of the contest by stepping under him after a jump shot. Rose admitted to trying to knock Bryant out of the game, while Jones claimed that was not his intention.
Either way, the Lakers could be without their best player for an extended period of time. Los Angeles had been in the midst of their best stretch of basketball all season, winning 17-of-23 games heading into Atlanta. Their improved play has catapulted them into the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
Bryant has been one of the big reasons for the team’s turnaround. Since the All-Star Break, the veteran is averaging 30.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game.
In Bryant’s absence, Jodie Meeks will likely see his playing time increase and enter the starting lineup. In 19.1 minutes per game, the backup shooting guard is averaging 8.0 points on 40.5 percent field-goal shooting.
Dwight Howard may become the team’s top scoring option with Bryant on the bench, and Pau Gasol still injured. He scored a season-high 39 points on Tuesday against the Orlando Magic.