SALT LAKE CITY — The "Black Mamba" once again has been snakebitten with injury. Los Angeles star guard Kobe Bryant is expected to miss six weeks with a fractured knee after recently returning from a torn Achilles tendon.
Jazz guard Gordon Hayward said it’s difficult to see anybody get hurt, but that Bryant's injury will affect the NBA’s appeal worldwide.
“You hate to see anybody go down, especially somebody who is one of the faces of the NBA,” he said. “We like to compete; guys are enemies when we’re playing against them, but at the same time it’s a brotherhood for us. We’re a union and it’s about making money, so when somebody like that goes down, worldwide you see a decline.”
In only six games this season, Bryant has averaged 13.8 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, but Utah coach Ty Corbin pointed out the Lakers adjusted to playing without him early and started to find an identity.
“This Lakers team is dangerous,” Corbin said. “Early on they got used to playing without him and started playing pretty well. They’re going to shoot fast and shoot often. We got to make sure we don’t fall into the trap of trying to play at their pace.”
HAYWARD ENGAGEMENT: Hayward announced his engagement to his girlfriend via Twitter on Christmas, but declined to talk any further about his proposal Thursday.
“I’m really excited, but I just kind of want to keep that private,” he said.
When asked if he expected Hayward to play with added engagement mojo against the Lakers, Corbin laughed: “The guys will give it to him, so he better be ready to give it back. It’s exciting for him and I’m happy for him. I wish him well.”
GOBERT’S GROWTH: Rookie Rudy Gobert returned to the Jazz after a short-lived stint in the D-League. In three games with the Bakersfield Jam, Gobert averaged 14 points and 13 rebounds.
“It was good for me to get some playing time,” he said. “For me, I think it was a good experience. When you get some playing time in the NBA, it’s good.”
In 17 games with the Jazz, Gobert, who was the 27th pick in the 2013 draft, has averaged 2.2 points and 4.6 rebounds.
“He was big inside (and) rebounded the ball very well,” Corbin said of Gobert's time in the D-League. “He was able to get some touches down in the post and I thought he was strong there. He kept the ball up high for the most part and he blocked some shots for us. The main thing was getting on the floor and playing a lot of minutes. I thought it was great for him.”
INJURY UPDATE: Richard Jefferson did not practice Thursday because of a sore back. He’s listed as a game-time decision Friday. He’s started all 31 games this season while averaging 10 points and just fewer than three rebounds per outing.