Chris Paul credits Kobe Bryant video for Game 1 return

Chris Paul credits Kobe Bryant video for Game 1 return
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Chris Paul’s drive and determination to play through the pain of a bruised right shoulder on Sunday was derived earlier in the day when the Phoenix Suns All-Star sat down to watch a four-minute video from Kobe Bryant on how the body can betray you.

As he got treatment in the Suns’ locker room during Game 1 of their playoff series for what the team called a contusion after his right arm struck LeBron James and his head hit teammate Cameron Johnson’s torso , Paul said he thought back to that Bryant clip.

Paul sustained the injury with 9 minutes 24 seconds left in the second quarter after James had leaped over the Suns guard for a put-back attempt, Paul losing his balance after he had swiped at the ball. He stayed down for quite a while writhing in pain after his head hit the Talking Stick Resort Arena court as players from both teams gathered around him. When he eventually got up, a towel over his head, James hugged and kissed Paul on the head before he went to the locker room.

Then with 5:32 left in the second quarter, Paul returned to the game to a rousing ovation.

After he inspired his teammates by coming back to play, finishing with seven points, eight assists and four rebounds in 36:10 in Phoenix’s 99-90 win over the Lakers, Paul talked about the video his trainer had sent to him about Bryant’s willingness to play through injuries.

“I listened to it before the game and hearing Kob just talking about the work ethic that you put in and stuff like that,” Paul said during his media session on Zoom. “And in the thing Kobe says like, ‘Injuries, sometimes you just can’t control them.’ So, that was all that was going through my mind after the play I got hit. Once I got here to the back and they checked me out and knew if there was any way I could play, I was going to.”

When he was asked if he would be able to play in Game 2 on Tuesday night, Paul responded, “Absolutely.” But when Paul described how he felt, it didn’t sound good.

“I was going up and I just remember I felt … I heard like a crack or whatever,” Paul said.

He was a big part of helping the Suns to the second-best record in the league at 51-21. He’ll be needed if the Suns are to be successful in the playoffs.

Though he looked tentative and in pain the rest of Game 1, Paul still had an impact.

The Lakers had cut a 16-point deficit to nine early in the fourth quarter, but Paul pulled up and sank a 15-foot jumper for an 11-point lead that was never threatened again.

“Anytime a guy lays it on the line physically like that after taking that kind of a hit, going in the back and then coming out playing, it gives you juice,” Suns coach Monty Williams said during his videoconference. “And then you think about every experience Chris has had, how many games he has played, everything he’s accomplished — nobody would’ve faulted him for not coming back.

“But when he did come back, we could see the emotion on his face and I thought that drove our guys. I got emotional just watching him battle tonight. I love Chris. He and I have been friends for a long time, so I had to think about his well-being, but also trust him that he’s OK. But it gave not only our team juice, but it gave our fans a jolt to see him come back and play in the game.”

Lakers-Suns schedule for first-round playoff series.

(Tim Hubbard / Los Angeles Times)

Paul will do all he can to get his body ready for Game 2.

He might watch more Kobe Bryant videos.

“I’ll be all right. I’ll be all right,” Paul said. “I just kept thinking to myself, ‘Get through the game.’ I got a great team around me, people that help me work on my body and stuff like that all the time, as well as the Suns organization. So, I’ll be all right.”

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