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Kobe Bryant finds criticism of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler unfair

Sitting at his locker, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant held court with a handful of reporters in a joyful mood that captured the Lakers' 120-91 victory Tuesday over the Utah Jazz.

Informed that he has shot at least 50% in the past seven games, Bryant deadpanned, "I'm good." Amid the Lakers' balance that featured a team-high 36 assists and a continuously strong defensive performance that held the Jazz to 41.9% shooting, Bryant offered a quick reminder that the team shouldn't rest on his laurels. "Just because it's my 15th year," Bryant said, "doesn't mean I can't get better." And at one point, Bryant went into a profanity-laced tirade, joking he wasn't going to keep answering the "million questions" reporters had for him.

But what was placed right in front of his feet served as a visual reminder that getting to this point isn't easy for Bryant. There are intricacies required to make Bryant appear fluid and engaged as a scorer and facilitator. In front of him was a bucket of water, which for some reason had a copy of the box score floating on the surface. Moments earlier, Bryant had his feet planted there to keep his legs fresh, a necessary habit as he continues playing through a surgically repaired right knee that he had told the New York Post's Peter Vecsey earlier this month, "I have very little cartilage under my right kneecap, it’s almost bone on bone."

Last season,  Bryant's determination to play on essentially one leg during the first-round playoff matchup with Oklahoma City prompted him to get his knee drained; he continued to play through a sprained knee he said was "the size of a balloon," and had arthroscopic surgery after securing his fifth NBA championship.

Bryant's example, among many others, has been used as the perfect foil for Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler, who remained sidelined for most of the second half of the Bears' NFC title-game loss Sunday to Green Bay because of a left knee injury that Bears Coach Lovie Smith revealed Monday to be a sprained ligament. Several reporters and athletes alike questioned why Cutler would remain on the sideline instead of fighting tooth and nail to carry the Bears to the Super Bowl. But don't count Bryant among those questioning Cutler's toughness.

"They should leave that alone," Bryant said. "They have no idea what it's like, especially with commentators who have no idea what an MCL even is or what it's like to walk on it or to play on it, let alone get hit on it and sacked on it as many times as he has."

This isn't the first time Bryant has made his stances known regarding certain NFL matters. A Philadelphia Eagles fan, Bryant proudly wore a Michael Vick jersey in the locker room following the Lakers' win earlier this month against the New York Knicks, the same day the Eagles were eliminated by the Packers. Even though his hometown team lost to Green Bay, Bryant shared how he's struck a friendship with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who met up with Bryant when the Lakers visited Milwaukee in November 2009, where Bryant expressed admiration for his ability to master the playbook.

This issue goes beyond Bryant sharing his views views as a football fan. Injuries are a universal concept and certainly aren't foreign to the Lakers. When Andrew Bynum (lateral meniscus tear in right knee), Lamar Odom (left shoulder), Ron Artest (left shoulder, thumb), Shannon Brown (sprained right thumb) and Bryant (knee and right index finger) fought through various injuries during the 2010 postseason, Bryant shared that the team would see who would crack first.

"I think the thing with the injuries is everybody kind of looks at each other and tries to figure out which one is going to be the first punk," Bryant said during the playoffs. "Because we will talk about you like a dog, like a chump. So nobody wants to be a chump."

So what's the difference between Bryant's defense of Cutler and Bryant's insistence his teammates play through injuries? After all, Lakers forward Matt Barnes, who's close with Bryant, spent part of his time rehabbing his surgically repaired right knee watching the Bears-Packers matchup and tweeted, "I can't believe Jay Cutler hasn't even TRYED to come back.. This is to go to the Super Bowl.. That's crazy." Barnes then backtracked: "I apologize 4 my comments made yesterday about Jay Cutler w/out knowing the facts, it was wrong of me 2 ASSUME that he really wasn't hurt..The way he was laughing & his facial expressions through me off.. Again it was wrong of me. I was caught up in the emotion of the game, but as an professional athlete I should have known better." But the message became clear: Players should fight through injuries, especially in big games, a sentiment several NFL players expressed regarding Cutler.

"They don't know what the hell they were talking about," Bryant countered. "They were just jealous they weren't in that position."

Those players focused on Cutler's stoic sideline demeanor, apparent ability to walk and the lack of medical treatment on the sidelines. Plenty of the media focused on the difference between Bryant's reluctance to sit out to rest his fractured index finger last season and then going on a five-game absence because of a sprained left ankle. So regardless of the contrasting images Bryant and Cutler have conveyed through how they handle injuries, there is one common denominator.

"It's just about listening to your body," Bryant said. "I feel I do a good job of that."

--Mark Medina

Twitter.com/latmedina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

 
Comments () | Archives (12)

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According to Phil Simms (on Jim Rome recently), when he had the same kind of injury that Cutler sustained, he sat out 3 or 4 games that season. Consequently, he was very jumpy in his return to the field. He had stated that he was "jumping all over the place" trying to avoid getting hit in the same spot again. I don't like football, so whatever. That was my take. A Triple U, but needed. Leave that dude alone.

DBDH!

Very good article, being I'm A suicidal (Die Hard) Laker Fan and GreenBay Fan
ur the best Medina

i hate kobe bean bryant!

David,
The PSP wonders why you hate Bean junior?
Thanks
PSP Officer

he is 1 of the best players but he just seems fake in his intentions and his demeanor. Plus I'm a Shaq and Miami thrice fan..

L Rob: "@Utz – Boston will certainly be more motivated. They’ve been pointing to this game since September."

They've been pointing to this game since the day after Game 7.
Posted by: utzworld - THE BANNER HOLDER | January 26, 2011 at 11:13 AM
Of course they do. Game 7 still burns inside them. We're the defending champs who beat them into the ground in the worse possible way by coming back against them after they had a double digit lead on us in the second half. We're still sipping on champagne while they are still having nightmares. They can't wait to beat the crap out of us. Not only do they WANT it more, I agree that they actually NEED it! For us? Only 1 of 82, baby, as meaningful or meaningless as the rest of them. I still say we've seen the last of them in the playoffs. They're playing way too hard for such old guys and will wear down and then out. Just watch.
Posted by: KobeMVP888 | January 26, 2011 at 01:26 PM

Dude...it's only Wedsenday and the EXCUSES are starting ROLL in for the LOSS Sunday. One in 82, BUT if you WIN!!!! What, your the GREATEST?

888- Dude... you can't have it your way, it's NOT Buger King. Hell the Lakers need this game ...BADLY TOO. If the Lakers get PUNKED AGAIN... Let me get this RIGHT....it's a practice game. RIGHT, Just Sayin.

Trevon Carlson,
The PSP would like to ask you to stop with the hate comments. Good bantering is okay but you are going overboard. The PSP would hate for comments to start getting moderated again.
Thanks
PSP Officer

Elmer Fudd,
It means that the 82 game season is nothing but a practice season and meaningless; doesn't matter if the P&G win one game or win 82 the outcome is same since its just practice. We go to the playoffs regardless. Now add the definition of Police to that and you get the PSP.
Thanks
PSP Solution Architect

Another reminder how Drew gutted it out last year in the playoffs....with the same injury that Tim Duncan choose not to play on in the playoffs in 2000 after he was given medical clearance. How ironic that TD's team was going for the repeat just like the Lakers. (BTW...I don't blame Duncan for choosing not to play. Why should he risk further injury and jeopardize his career)


Yep, I know I was in the minority in saying Drew deserved to vacation in South Africa before having his surgery. But I felt that was a fair reward for playing when he didn't have to and helping the Lakers hoist the Larry O'Brien trophy!

I wanted to weigh in on the Andrew Bynum automatically getting into the ASG because he has the 2nd most votes (and Yao is out). I'm mixed on this:

1. Would love for Drew to get in. When healthy, as he is now, and playing at the top of his game,which he's starting to do, he probably is the 2nd best 5 out there (certainly with Yao out he is).

2. Unfortunately, Yao's dropping out DOES NOT take into account all the people who voted for Yao. One cannot automatically assume that they would have voted for Bynum, and in fact, they might NOT have. I see the conundrum that Darth "Evilest Subhuman on the Planet" Stern is in, oddly.

I'll give an example: what if Kobe had the most votes and, say, something, er, someone like Lebron had the second most votes? If Kobe were chosen by the Intergalactic Peacekeeping Force to have to go save the universe (which, obviously, being Kobe, he'd have to do, and Phil being Phil and not liking the ASG would give his blessing to), would one assume that Lebron, having the SECOND MOST VOTES, should automatically now be considered the highest vote-getter? Should my vote for Kobe be assumed to have had gone to Lebron if the Mamba left to save the multiverse? HARDLY. ANYONE but the Princess could have my vote. LO should have my vote. RonRon should have my vote. LUKE should have my vote (hey, he's at least got more intangibles than Lebrat). ANYONE but Lebron. And yet, he had the second most.

So, just saying, I think that horrible, monstrous Stern has a point in saying that just because a person has the second most votes does not take into account what the voters who voted for the first place vote-getter would do if they had to re-vote.

Nevertheless I still would like Drew to get in to the ASG, but behind LO in this matter.

First of all if Bynum doesn't play last year and the Lakers lose to Boston Kobe would have ripped him and so would all of you. The bottom line is in big games pro athletes play until they can't walk or run anymore period. Cutler was stinking up the joint anyway but as a big money QB he has to give it a go until the coaches pull him out. Had he torn a ligament and was unable to stand or run then I would understand but the guy was laughing on the sideline running and slapping hands when the Bears were coming back. That's not a guy who is a champion but a punk that let his team down and doesn't deserve the fat checks he receives. And I am a Ram fan so I could really care less.

I agree with Bynum toughing it out in the 2005 series. I found an article that brings up the Jay Cutler controversy and list the Lakers best Un-Cutler-Like moments in NBA history. I love that they mentioned Bynum’s moment.

http://www.lakersnation.com/the-best-tough-it-out-moments-in-laker-history/2011/01/26/


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