NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans Hornets coach Monty Williams said Kobe Bryant’s injury was a really bad day for the NBA and one Williams particularly feels bad about because of the Lakers guard’s love for the game.
Bryant’s left Achilles tendon was torn when he made a move to the basket with 3:08 left in the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ game Friday night against the Golden State Warriors.
“Kobe is a big part of the NBA,” Williams said. “You don’t want to see anyone get hurt, but it doesn’t do the league any good when the stars get hurt.”
Williams said it bothered him because he feels like he’s somewhat of a kindred spirit with Bryant, known for his work ethic, determination to excel and passion for basketball.
“Just having competed against him, I felt real bad,” Williams said. “You know the guys that love it the way you love it, and when they can’t do it, it bothers you.”
Bryant appeared to be fighting back tears after the game, talking about the injury ending a tough Lakers season.
“You know the guys who cry after losses,” said Williams, whose career was cut relatively short by a knee injury. “He’s one of those guys, and I know that look. And to see him go down like that and to watch him cry, I know that feeling when you want to do it so bad and you can’t.”
Williams said it’s going to have a big impact on the league because Bryant is one of the NBA’s best players. And he understands what Bryant, who will be 35 this summer, is going through.
“I’m trying to get in contact with him because I wanted to wish him well,” he said. “I understand what it’s like to have a career-ending-type injury. You don’t know if you’re going to come back. You want to, and if it’s anybody who can, it’s him. But I’ve seen guys who’ve had that injury late. It’s a tough one.”
Williams was a teammate of former Atlanta Hawks All-Star Dominique Wilkins and was on the coaching staff of the Portland Trail Blazers when coach Nate McMillan incurred a similar injury.
Williams said Wilkins, nicknamed the “Human Highlight Film” because of his creative, powerful dunks and athletic plays during games, was less so after the injury.
“Even though he could still jump and dunk on guys, he wasn’t the same,” Williams said. “But Kobe’s such a maniac when it comes to working out, I wouldn’t be surprised if he got back to who he was.”
He said Bryant’s injury reminded him of McMillan’s, which happened when the two coaches were participating in a scrimmage in practice.
“I went to set a screen, and he thought somebody kicked him,” Williams said. “He walked off the court, just like Kobe did. Most guys I see get hurt like that, they act like they got shot, screaming and hollering. I said, ‘Kobe’s tough’ because most guys can’t do that.”
McMillan’s injury appears to have been the start of Williams heading down the path to being a head coach.
“Right after that is when I started walking the sidelines, because he appointed me to be the head coach, basically,” Williams said. “It’s unfortunate that I got to do it under those circumstances, but that’s how it happened.”