One of the most dominant story lines for the LA Lakers this season has been the health of franchise superstar Kobe Bryant. He returned from his devastating Achilles’ injury from last season in early December, but was only able to play 6 games before injuring his knee, and has been out since. The Lakers’ game-plan all season has been to simply “survive” until Kobe returns, and ride him once he did, while still working towards building a championship-calibur team starting this summer. Unfortunately, after an evaluation of his knee this week, the Lakers did not get the news they were hoping for; Bryant would still need at least an additional 3 weeks of rehab before he could even return to basketball activities. Combine that with the additional time Kobe would need to get himself back in game-shape (though anyone who knows him knows he will pit the work in 24/7), and you’re realistically looking at over a month more without the face of the franchise. To put that in perspective, today is January 30th, and the additional speculated 6 more weeks of recovery would put us in mid-March. The NBA season ends mid-April, and barring a miracle, the Lakers will not be in playoff contention, instead looking at a lottery pick, as they currently sit in 2nd to last place in the conference. In other words, Kobe would be pushing himself to his limits (as is his nature) for one month of basketball.
Many had hoped Kobe would get good news this week; coach Mike D’Antoni had even speculated Bryant may return to game action in early February. But with the new timetable, that is out of the question. This season is a wash, and honestly, the best thing the Lakers can do right now is to declare Kobe out for the remainder. I know the idea is near blasphemy, and if Kobe were to read this, I would very likely get his infamous “death-stare”, but we should look at the big picture here; Kobe has 2 years left, and we all want him to go out on the highest note possible (hopefully hoisting his 6th championship trophy). What is the point of pushing his limits once again for one month of playing time. I know he has said he plans to return to the court as soon as he possibly can, as he feels he owes it to the Lakers and wants to do his job. Also, the time off the court has been killing him, as he so desires to be out there with his squad. But what would that accomplish? If anything, it might actually hurt the Lakers in the long run; with Bryant back, they would obviously be more competitive, and should win a few more games, which then would hurt their lottery chances. They’d almost be shooting themselves in the foot. Sure, the fans would get to see him, and the Lakers would fill Staples Center again, and get higher TV ratings and more national coverage. Is one month of Kobe Bryant worth risking the options his injury has provided for both the Lakers’ future, and the rest of his playing career? At this point, thinking of the greater good, wouldn’t it be wiser for Kobe to act as cautiously as possible, forego the remainder of this season, and come back in October 100%? The fans will understand; they won’t like it, and may not agree with it, but they will understand. We are already witnessing like without one of the greatest to ever pay the game, and it’s not pretty, but we can last another 2 months, for the greater good.