Kobe Bryant injury: The impact on the Suns' 2013 NBA Lottery odds

The season-ending and career-threatening tear to Kobe Bryant’s left Achilles tendon — a complete tear, at that — certainly affects the Phoenix Suns’ 2013 draft lottery odds. The heavy bet is that it’ll improve the Suns’ shot at acquiring a Los Angeles Lakers lottery pick this summer, but with so little time left, that shot is still a reach.

Bryant, after all, was putting up MVP type numbers in recent weeks, even if the numbers came because he was playing 47.9999 minutes per game. Los Angeles has two tough games to finish out its regular season and holds a one-game lead on the Utah Jazz heading into Sunday’s action.

Thus, the magic number of combined Jazz wins and Laker losses for the Suns to acquire Los Angeles’ draft pick is two.

There are four combined games to reach that point, as Utah would need to end the year with at least the same record as the Lakers — the Jazz hold the tiebreaker.

On Sunday, the Lakers host the San Antonio Spurs in Staples Center before finishing off their schedule Wednesday against the team a spot ahead of them in the playoff standings — the Houston Rockets.

San Antonio, of course, has the potential to hold out its stars such as Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. Manu Ginobili is hoping to return before the postseason, but it seems unlikely on Sunday against the Lakers. Then again, maybe none of this matters considering the Spurs seemingly don’t skip a beat when their players are withheld from action.

But like the Lakers, Gregg Popovich’s team is dealing with a loss. The Spurs stunningly waived Stephen Jackson, so how each team responds from their respective losses will be an underlying storyline. One would expect that the Lakers will be playing with Kobe in their hearts as they did to pull out a 118-116 win against Golden State despite seeing their suddenly-mortal leader go down.

Houston, in the season finale, could prove to be a problem for the Lakers, whose clomping-around on defense doesn’t bode well against the league’s fastest-paced team.

As for the Jazz’s schedule, expect things to get quite interesting. They’ll play their second game of a two-game series at the Minnesota Timberwolves’ home court on Monday. The Jazz beat Rick Adelman’s team 107-100 on Friday, though it’s not a great sign Utah needed Al Jefferson to go berserk for 40 points, 13 rebounds and six assists to pull out the win.

Suns fans can hope the T-Wolves tired by jumping into seemingly every one of Phoenix’s passing lanes on Saturday.

Utah finishes the season Wednesday against the Grizzlies in Memphis, and don’t expect Lionel Hollins to give his players the last regular season game off. They fell to the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday and are deadlocked at 54-26. They’ll probably be going the full 82 games in vying for homecourt advantage in the first round.

In short, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the final Western Conference playoff spot, and thus the Suns’ second lottery pick, comes down to the final game of the year. But that said, even with Bryant’s injury, the Lakers still hold their own destiny. There’s a chance they play inspired ball for the two remaining games this season.

And looking further ahead, it’s unlikely Bryant’s injury will make much of a difference to Phoenix if he sits out all or even part of next season.

The only piece of the Steve Nash trade that’s a part of the 2014 draft is a second-round pick coming from Los Angeles, meaning there won’t be a whole lot stacked on the Lakers’ record next season as far as Phoenix is concerned.

Did D’Antoni overplay Kobe?

The simple answer: no.

Yes, we here tend to be Mike D’Antoni apologists. While his slight rotations might or might not necessary, they weren’t directly the reason for Bryant’s injury.

As Lakers trainer Gary Vitti pointed out to CBS Sports, Bryant’s extended minutes just increased the chances of any injury occurring. And yes, while some may not like Bryant, his injury does issue the warning to mere mortals that an Achilles could explode while walking out the front door — which is frightening.

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