Posted December 20, 2013

With a bad break, it all changes for Kobe Bryant and the Lakers

Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers, Uncategorized
After pushing himself for months to return from a torn Achilles' tendon, Kobe Bryant suffered a fracture in his left knee on Tuesday. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

After pushing himself for months to return from a torn Achilles’ tendon, Kobe Bryant suffered a fracture in his left knee on Tuesday. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Three weeks ago, the Los Angeles Lakers earmarked $48.5 million for a new, two-year contract extension to let the world know that Kobe Bryant was both their present and future. What was illogical then seems painfully so now, as the 35-year-old guard not only faces an uphill climb in overcoming the limitations of his once-ruptured Achilles’, but will now be tasked with slowly rehabilitating an injured knee on the same leg. Bryant lost his footing in the third quarter of a game against the Grizzlies on Tuesday, resulting in a hyperextension and tibial plateau fracture — an injury that carries with it a six-week timeline for recovery.

To those who believe Bryant to be above such conventional timetables – as if his every fiber were fundamentally stronger than that of a mere human — let this be a harrowing, unfortunate lesson. No one dares doubt Bryant’s will nor his commitment to being the best basketball player possible. But he is still bound by basic physical limits, ones that in this case impede not only his ability to reclaim previous highs, but also to push himself as much as he’d like. 

Therein lies the danger with Bryant in this luckless stage of his career. One does not power through a torn Achilles’ tendon. It’s a career-altering injury to be treated with the utmost consideration, as it taxes not only the immediate area of the tear but all of the lower body and then some. Players who suffered the same tear more than five years ago still bear its trademark: A noticeable lack of muscle in the leg in question, which comes with all kinds of physical ramifications. It takes far less than the tear of a major tendon to throw the body out of alignment, and in the case of a high-functioning athlete like Bryant, compensation at other points and joints seemed somewhat inevitable.

Jenkins: With Kobe sidelined, Lakers can focus on rebuilding

It speaks volumes about the friction between Bryant’s state and mentality that, upon tweaking his left knee, he looked to persevere. He was playing in just his sixth game back in an early return after suffering an absolutely brutal injury, yet Bryant angled to get back into the game as soon as possible to help his team win. Admirable though that may be, Bryant wasn’t exactly in a position to force the issue. He hasn’t looked quite right physically since his return to the NBA floor, and yet he threw caution to the wind in playing six-and-a-half minutes on a hyperextended knee atop a shaky ankle. There’s resilience and then there’s heedlessness.

The problem isn’t the fracture itself so much as what it suggests. For months Bryant lost bone and muscle mass while keeping weight off his torn Achilles’, only to then begin ramping up his workouts to get back into playing shape. Perhaps he came back too soon, or perhaps Bryant and the Lakers’ team doctors took every precaution necessary. Regardless, he plunged headfirst into a ball-dominant workload of 30 minutes per game, and on the fourth game in five nights felt his left knee give out. Hyperextension is as apt a metaphor as a malady; the legend renowned for pushing himself beyond physical limits may have gone a bit too hard, too fast, and now will likely sit out six weeks at the least as he gives a critical joint the necessary time to heal.

Barkley says Lakers should shut Kobe down for season

This is exactly what the Lakers signed up for in extending Bryant’s contract for another two seasons after this one, all without so much as waiting for Kobe to make his initial return. He worked his way back once, and will do so again. But every development from this point on comes back to that torn Achilles’ tendon, which changed the entire course of Bryant’s career when it snapped back in April. Now, even a six-week, non-surgical recovery from an entirely separate knee injury becomes a bit more complicated, as Bryant won’t have an opportunity in the interim to reinforce his weakened left leg. If he attempts to come back too soon, he risks lingering, arthritic implications for his knee. Even if he waits for the fracture to fully heal, Bryant will again have to test his Achilles’ and his left leg in general, now asterisked with two points of structural weakness.

Bryant is aging and ailing in a way that affects his entire physical system, and the entire Lakers ecosystem beyond that. He shouldn’t be written off, though with injuries such as these comes deserved doubt in Bryant’s ability to justify the $48.5 million in salary and cap room he’ll pull over the next two seasons at the Lakers’ own request. His absence will require short-term strategic shifts. His fracture could change the trajectory of the Lakers’ season. And ultimately, the lingering effects of his Achilles’ tear will shape Lakers teams to come as Kobe’s limitations compound. The walls are closing in, but it remains to be seen if Bryant — who is blinded by drive — or the Lakers — who are blinded by devotion — will stop to take notice.

28 comments
LivingInTheWow
LivingInTheWow

Wow...   Take away Kobe & Nash, and the remaining 13 players (COMBINED) are making roughly the same $$$, actually 'Playing', & actually 'Winning'...   Sorry, but the Bang for the Buck is FAR BETTER with Everyone else, Not Named Kobe & Nash...   #flush

infiniteloop8
infiniteloop8

Dude you are awesome, but it is time to retire. I saw the writhing on the wall when Phil Jackson left. Time to leave the sinking ship and let them re-build.

JayTaylor
JayTaylor

Huh?

The guy suffers a BROKEN KNEE CAP, which has NOTHING to do with his Achilles.  Why should he retire? In 30 minutes per game he's still playing better than most of the Max Contract players in the league. Did most of you forget that he was averaging 20ppg before the injury? There are only a handful of guys who CAN put up 20ppg let alone DO on a consistent basis.


The only thing that happened with Kobe being injured is the rest of the world has come to terms with what most Lakers fans already have - 2013 is a buffer year meant to be ignored.


LA misses the playoffs for the 6th time in history, with a 42-40 record that would be #5 in the East, and suddenly the world ends.

yeahisaiditsowhathuh
yeahisaiditsowhathuh

The Ultimate Winner 

Father Time - End of discussion

Period - Lights out - It's ova - Bye-bye.

mikelaw127
mikelaw127

It's sad seeing my favorite player for most of my life being a shell of his former self. I just hopes he walks away at the right time so I, as well as many other Laker fans, can cherish the memories he gave us.

Blinker
Blinker

Bye Kobe.  Time kills us all.  Might be time to move on to something besides basketball.  How about basket weaving????

HeadlineSurfer
HeadlineSurfer

Kobe mega-contract the albatross. Rebuilding should have started last season by unloading Gasol, Nash, even Blake. Can't be any worse than Orlando. To expect Kobe not to break down after 16 years in the league with his defense and intensity is ludicrous. Time for the coach to go, too. Bring Phil back and maybe, just maybe, Kobe and Lakers get by OKC, the Spurs . Then he knocks out LeBron to get that coveted sixth ring to stand side by side with the great Michael Jordan (Ok, wake up, it's only a dream)...

playemball
playemball

I sense Kobe is laughing all the way to the bank!

KennethB.Jacobs
KennethB.Jacobs

35 is a "ripe old age" in the NBA especially the way this guy plays the game. Look for more injuries. The body is rebelling and telling this guy and his team that there are more injuries in store for him. Both this guy and his team must come to terms with reality. This guy should have hung up his shoes at the end of last season.

Michael7843853
Michael7843853

Not a fan of Kobe, but you gotta feel for him. Is Kobe the Mickey Mantle of basketball? Oh, what might have been.

beast
beast

The Lakers are now a dumber organization than Jerry Jones' Cowboys. 

effeweall
effeweall

not a decent person.  good riddance

WilyCoyoteSuperGenius
WilyCoyoteSuperGenius

The Lakers were fools not to amnesty Kobe and his $30 million and even bigger fools to commit to another $48 million. Getting just what they deserve for giving into the rapist.

riley8
riley8

Time to hang em up.  It's been a great career.

JonathanD
JonathanD

@Michael7843853 What might have been?  Seriously, he played 18 years, and got to spend most of his prime with the best coach in the NBA and some of the best teammates possible.  95% of stars have never been as lucky to have as long or as blessed a career as Kobe.

Delusional
Delusional

@Michael7843853 Kobe is an a-hole and a terrible teammate. Not saying he deserves to be injured, but these injuries is humbling him

hight
hight

@beast yep, jim buss gets the al davis award this year.  far surpassing jerry jones and the jets owner LOL

LeeCooper
LeeCooper

@beast as a cowboys fan, I can tell you with a large amount of bravado that that isnt possible.

KristianColasacco
KristianColasacco

@effeweall  This coming from the same moron who wrote, "Aaron is totally getting railroaded.  I think he was framed by the two guys he was with.  I hope justice prevails and the truth comes out.  Aaron can still help the Pats this postseason if things work out for him.  I hope justice prevails here." in the Hernandez getting his property seized article.  

Papi Del Negro..... Dont ask
Papi Del Negro..... Dont ask

I agreed and was ready to like your comment until the last goofy sentence. An A class A hole yes he has shown to be but he has shown the talent and drive to overlook that. In regards to that incident of ages ago.. To this day I find it hard to believe that someone of His stature raped said individual. With evidence that was shown she was nothing but a trick out to entrap somebody. He could get both yours and my late mother to probably give it up and my mother was a commited catholic. Long story short, I dont care for him either but stop being ignorant and using a played out assumption and title that was proven to be unfounded.

Terry
Terry

@LeeCooper @beast 

Well Lee, maybe you need to get injured.

Maybe that will humble you!

Just kidding.

I read a delusional comment above.

JonathanD
JonathanD

@Papi Del Negro..... Dont ask Wow, are you that ignorant.  Of COURSE people of significant stature commit rapes.  There are thousands of historic examples of powerful men raping less powerful women, no matter how big their public image was.  Look at freaking R. Kelly, who raped teenage girls for decades and still hasn't seen a single day in jail.

There was zero evidence that she was "nothing but a trick out to entrap somebody."  Not one bit of evidence was revealed to contradict her story.  All Kobe's high-priced lawyers did was show, "We will show the entire world every little detail of your private life and ruin you forever", and she got frightened and settled for the money, because having your name trashed by people that powerful just isn't worth it.

I'm not saying that I know one way or another whether it was rape.  But the only evidence that ever contradicted her story was the accused perpetrator's claim that it was consensual.  And even with that, Kobe was admitting (because the DNA evidence gave him no choice) that a married man in his late 20's of "his stature" committed adultery with a teenage girl just seconds after meeting her.