The news that Kobe Bryant would be sidelined for about six weeks by a fracture of his lateral tibial plateau brought into clearer focus for most people how quickly the end of his career is approaching. Bryant isn’t among those folks, though.
“All I can do is do the work,” he told ESPN, “and do everything I can to be back at the highest level.”
Bryant will not require surgery, just rest and rehab. To Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, he was a little bolder, a little more Kobe.
“Lucky it wasn’t a meniscus,” he said of the injury to the same leg on which he had surgery to repair a torn Achilles’ in April. He came back from that and he’ll come back from this, saying “only an idiot would” would doubt him.
Whether it’s the end or the end of Bryant at a stellar level, this much is clear: the end is approaching more quickly than anticipated for Bryant, who, at 35, is in his 18th NBA season. “If this isn’t the end,” Tony Kornheiser put it on “PTI,” “we can see it from here.” Because of the Achilles’ injury his suffered last spring, “[h]is absence already reminded us to pay close attention to the time he has left,” J.A. Adande writes on ESPN.com., “because it might not even be as much as we thought.”
Bryant hurt the knee Tuesday night, playing 33 minutes against Memphis.”I just hyperextended it,” Bryant said at the time. “I tend to hyperextend my knees every now and then.”
But a hyperextension at 35 is different from one at 25. A six-week estimate for his return seems optimistic, even for Bryant, USA Today’s Sam Amick writes.
There’s no way to know what Bryant’s latest injury means just yet, beyond the daunting fact that a 35-year-old who came off one of the most brutal injuries (his April Achilles tendon tear) in existence six games ago will now be out at least six weeks with a fracture in his left knee. And for anyone who’s not familiar with one of these rare fractures of the lateral tibial plateau, consider this: Former Houston Rockets star Yao Ming, who certainly carried a much heavier load, once suffered the same injury in mid-December 2006, and we didn’t see him again until early March 2007.
Bryant’s breakdown so quickly into his return has long-range implications for the Lakers, who signed Bryant to a two-year contract extension just months ago. Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times took an honest look at the bigger picture for the team as a future without Kobe approaches.
This awful occurrence is actually the best thing for everyone.
Now the Lakers can tank without tanking.
Now the Lakers can finally begin their inevitable rebuilding process and maintain their dignity while doing it.
Without Bryant, the makeshift remaining team can play hard enough to entertain while losing enough to drop into next summer’s rich draft lottery.