What has the NBA come to these days?
It’s becoming difficult to enjoy the league to the fullest when stars are becoming victimized to the injury swarm.
Kobe Bryant is yet again sidelined, this time with a fracture of the lateral tibial plateau of his left knee. The estimated time the 15-time All-Star will be out is six weeks. It’s safe to say this came as a shock to the basketball world, considering Bryant was fresh off of playing a productive game in Memphis on Tuesday night, a matchup the Lakers won 96-92.
The fracture was suffered early in the third quarter as Bryant became tripped up with Grizzlies’ guard Tony Allen, causing him to fall to the floor and rub his knee for a few seconds. The head-scratching part of the situation was that Lakers’ trainer Gary Vitti came out to check on the superstar, and Bryant declared he was feeling completely fine. He remained in the game and looked normal throughout the fourth quarter.
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) December 19, 2013
Bryant finished the game with 21 points and appeared to be the normal, deadly talent that we know him to be, knocking down a clutch 3-pointer over the outstretched arms of Tony Allen to give the Lakers more of a cushion in the final minutes. Spectators of the game in Memphis are the ones the most surprised by the MRI results Bryant received on Thursday, because he got right back up and continued to give the fans reason to believe he was back on course. The injury comes as a devastating blow to the Lakers’ roster as a whole, but there is logical reasoning to assume that it isn’t necessarily a MAJOR deal for Bryant individually. First off, team doctors have announced that this fracture will not require any surgery. The bone will heal on its own, and ESPN’s Medical Analyst Dr. Michael Kaplan explained that it may take more than six weeks, in reality, to heal enough for Bryant to return. If this had been a surgically demanding injury, the light would begin to dim for Bryant’s career.
We have seen the progress of Bryant’s body to heal some of the most nagging injuries a basketball player can have, and it’s always been impressive. Severe ankle sprains typically haven’t kept Bryant out of action, he battled through dislocated fingers, and dominated through a broken nose. The worst injury in sports, the Achilles rupture, kept Bryant out of basketball action for seven months before he returned to practice. The normal time-table for returning off an Achilles tear? 9-12 months. Bryant has always exceeded expectations when it comes to the physical nature of basketball. On the other side of it, is there anyone mentally strong enough to overcome two leg-related injuries back-to-back? Kobe Bryant is in that class. As far as the timing, it couldn’t have been more inopportune for Bryant or the Lakers. After beginning the season out of rhythm and turning over the ball more than usual (25 TO’s in his first four games), Bryant was getting back in his groove.
Last week against the Charlotte Bobcats, Bryant scored 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting, grabbed 7 rebounds, and dished 8 assists. Recently vs. Memphis, he finished with 21 points on 9-of-18 shooting. When analyzing Bryant’s return from the Achilles tear, it’s important to understand you have to put more stock into his good performances, rather than his sub-par games. Reason being: He’s doing something unprecedented. The legendary Dominique Wilkins had a full offseason of basketball activities PLUS team training camp to prepare for the Achilles return. What we have seen thus far from Bryant in six games, WAS his training camp. Through the six games, his stat-line included just 13.8 points, 6.3 assists, and 4.3 rebounds per game with a player efficiency rating (PER) of 11.70. If these had been his numbers at the All-star break without fracturing the leg, he would indeed deserve a bit of doubt and criticism. But that’s not the case, and not how people should evaluate him. As far as the Lakers are concerned, this may be the most pathetic year I’ve witnessed from the injury bug. At the same time that Bryant’s jaw-dropping news was revealed, Steve Nash also determined that he would be out for at least four more weeks. According to Nash, the only thing he is having trouble with at the moment is sprinting. Word to the wise would be that if he indeed plans to return for one last shot in this Lakers’ lineup, he needs to be reliable and not suspect to breaking down after two or three games. However, this does leave Los Angeles without their two mastermind veterans for over a month.
Steve Nash: “At this stage, for my condition, it’s really about whether I can sustain the demands of the game.”
— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) December 19, 2013
Steve Blake is next best option at point guard with Nash out, but even he is expected to be sidelined five more weeks with his torn elbow ligaments.
Jordan Farmar, the youngest floor general out of the bunch, brings the only uplifting news within the Lakers organization at this time. Farmar will be ready to return next week, and don’t think for one second that he will be a bench asset. With the sickening depletion in the backcourt, Farmar propels directly into the starting lineup with Bryant out until the end of January.
Before his setback, Farmar provided tremendous minutes for the Lakers off the bench as Steve Blake was in the starting role. Farmar doesn’t allow the offense to get stagnant at any point, even though he isn’t the greatest ball distributor you would hope for. He was averaging 9.2 points and 4.4 assists per game in just 18.9 minutes a night, which is exactly the type of backup guard a team wants — especially one that thrives on being atop the league in “pace” (number of possessions per 48 minutes).
Head Coach Mike D’Antoni announced that bench phenom Xavier Henry will start at point guard for the Lakers in their upcoming games until Farmar returns.
Pau Gasol stated that the Lakers would have “no excuses” even with Kobe Bryant’s injury being another slap in the team’s face. Well, Mr. Spaniard, it all starts (and might end) with you.
Friday, Dec. 20th vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (Staples Center, Los Angeles)
Saturday, Dec. 21st at Golden State Warriors (Oracle Arena, Oakland)
Monday, Dec. 23rd at Phoenix Suns (U.S. Airways Center, Phoenix)
**Wednesday, Dec. 25th vs. Miami Heat (Staples Center, Los Angeles)
**Can David Stern change this and save the city of Los Angeles from a ruined Christmas?
Good Luck, Kobe-less, Nash-less, Blake-less Lakers. Nausea now sets in.