That’s how long Kobe Bryant will be sidelined with a fracture in the lateral tibial plateau in his left knee, an injury that he suffered in the third quarter of the Lakers 96-92 win over the Memphis Grizzlies — the game in which Bryant looked his best after coming back from his ruptured Achilles. Bryant was as aggressive as we’ve seen him in that third quarter, scoring on a few jump shots from the right wing and getting to the rim against the likes of Tony Allen, one of the NBA’s premier defenders. With about 3:30 left to play in the period, however, Bryant went down and immediately grabbed his knee.
It didn’t look good. It never looks good when you see you aging star player take a tough fall and immediately grab his leg. With Kobe being Kobe, he got up and continued to play, unbeknownst to him that it would be his last game of 2013, a year that was essentially a nightmare from start to finish. The team had been playing relatively well as Bryant recovered from his Achilles injury and were 10-9 before he made his first start. And after losing the first three games of his return, the Lakers had won two of their last three and finished a tough four-game road trip with a 2-2 record.
Despite not having a healthy point guard on the roster, the Lakers managed through four games in five nights on the road, winning the second of a back-to-back twice with a home game on Friday and Jordan Farmar’s return nearing. Mike D’Antoni was starting to figure out how to get Bryant in the flow of the offense off the ball, utilizing Wes Johnson to initiate offense so Bryant could do more work from the mid post. And when Bryant was handling the ball, the weak side wing was coming up above the break for more of a two-guard set to give Bryant a release when he got into trouble. After averaging 6.5 turnovers in the first four games of his return, Bryant was down to 4.5 in his last two. Adjustments were being made, they were gathering wins on the road and Bryant was beginning to trust his Achilles a little more with every passing minute.
Now, the Lakers are faced with another tremendous setback, one that feels like the 403rd over the last two seasons. Steve Nash broke his fibula in the second game of last season, and the injury bug has lived in Los Angeles ever since. No Lakers key rotation player outside of Wes Johnson has avoided injury over the last two seasons, and Bryant is just the latest to go down. To make matters worse, it’s his left leg again, the same leg that suffered the torn Achilles.
Kobe isn’t just going to have to go back through the rehab process, but he’s going to have to go back through all of the cardio to get himself back into game shape, he’s going to have to go back through the timing process once he’s back on the floor, and he’s going to have to go back through the trust process — which is the most important part of the process. It could prove to be difficult as it’s another injury he suffered during a routine basketball play. Just as he was beginning to trust his Achilles, he’s re-injured his left leg. Over compensation issues will be a concern upon his return, which just leads to risk for more injuries on other parts of the body.
As frustrating as this has to be for the fans, the frustration levels for Bryant have to be 10-fold. These moments of grief can be contagious if the Lakers allow it to be. Despite the recent setbacks, the team has to continue to find a way to get the job done. Outside of Bryant, this injury hurts Gasol the most, as he was just beginning to find a groove with Bryant back on the floor. Their two-man game was working well, and Gasol’s numbers showed it. The team will have to find a way to separate themselves from the misfortunes and wish Bryant a speedy recovery. God speed.
Pau Gasol’s Immediate Reaction To Kobe Bryant’s New Knee Injury