April 15, 2013

The Kobe Bryant injury conundrum

by Dan Bilicki In: Basketball

I’m sure that you’ve heard by now, but Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant is out with a ruptured Achilles tendon and is slated to be sidelined for six to nine months.

It was bad enough watching the Lakers-Warriors game on Friday night and seeing Bryant go down twice in the in the game BEFORE the big injury. It was fairly apparent that to keep running him out there in  the line of fire would no doubt end in tragedy.

Maybe his body finally broke down and this tough season. He had played his most minutes in a season since 2007-08 – he has played the fourth most in the league – and was averaging around 45 minutes per game over the last stretch as the Lakers pushed towards the West’s final playoff berth. We also can’t forget that this is, in fact, Kobe’s 17th season in the NBA. All of that wear and tear had to add up.

But while the estimate is that he’ll miss six to nine months – with the optimistic outcome having him being ready for opening day – I don’t think that will even be in doubt.

We’re living in a day and age where athletes are overcoming serious injuries in record times. Ray Lewis came back from a torn triceps in a matter of weeks, Adrian Peterson came back from a torn ACL better than ever and Terrell Suggs came back from a similar torn Achilles tendon to play for the Super Bowl champion Ravens. Even Bryant’s teammate Metta World Peace came back from a torn meniscus just 12 days after surgery.

We can’t forget Kobe’ relentless work ethic either. If there was one athlete that could work and will himself back to 100% in record time, it’s him. After all, he’s the one that taught that LeBron James guy that working out more often is the path to success, and now look at him.

The real question is what will the Lakers do now? They’re in the driver’s seat to make the playoffs ahead of the Jazz, who need to win out and hope L.A. loses its final game. But being the eighth seed means that you have to face the top team, meaning either the Spurs or Thunder loom.

Either way that’s a tough matchup for L.A. without Kobe, but I wouldn’t think they’ll be swept or anything. Remember this is a team that still has Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard. If they can get on a good run together, there’s an outside shot they could even score a remarkable upset. Could you imagine that? A playoff run without Kobe would be one hell of a twist ending for this nightmare Lakers season.

Bryant’s injury also poses many questions for the future too: Will he be able to come back as the same player he was? Does this make Howard more or less likely to resign in L.A.? Is it finally time to start looking for a successor to Kobe? And will this injury make the Lakers a front-runner for the 2014 LeBron James sweeps?

These are all things to think about as we enter NBA playoffs minus one of the best players the league has ever seen – one that we may never see play as hard as he has always been capable of before. It looks like we have come to the sad end of an era for basketball.

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