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Report: Lakers’ Kobe Bryant Will Miss Remainder Of Season

Kobe Bryant, who was hoping to return from an injured knee suffered on Dec. 17, has been ruled out for the remainder of the hapless Los Angeles Lakers’ season.

Many have contended all along that Bryant, 36, should not return until next year, as the Lakers stumble toward the end of the season. What would be the point? Well, doctors, the team and maybe even Bryant finally agreed.

He signed a two-year, $48.5 million extension in November to remain the NBA’s highest-paid player and continue through the 2015-16 season, when it is likely he will retire.

The NBA megastar is not traveling with the team on its trip to Oklahoma City and San Antonio, instead staying in L.A. to be reexamined by team doctor, Steve Lombardo. He has reported discomfort in the fractured lateral tibial plateau in his left knee—first thought to take just six weeks to heal.

Bryant returned from a torn Achilles and seemed to be gaining his footing in the sixth game, when he suffered the knee injury. He played on the injured knee to help the Lakers secure the win, not realizing he sustained a more serious injury than he thought.

Although the Lakers’ original estimate was that Bryant would miss approximately six weeks, he is now expected to miss the final 17 weeks of the season. He said at the NBA All-Star break that he was frustrated by the slow recovery of his knee and noted, “It’s not the mind that wears down, it’s the body.”

Although he has expressed hope the Lakers will reload this summer via free agency, indications are the team will craft a roster around him again with an eye toward saving its salary-cap space for a rich 2015 free-agent class.

Despite Bryant’s limited availability, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said last month that no one should question Bryant’s ability to play “at a high level” next season.

Former Lakers coach Phil Jackson said on SiriusXM NBA Radio recently that Bryant will still be a potent scorer when he returns, but not the all-around player he once was.

“I expect he’ll be back and will be a vital player,” Jackson said. “He is not going to block a shot, take the ball and go coast to coast from baseline to baseline now or rebound and do that quite as much. And so it is going to be a different guy, but he’s still going to have scoring capabilities.”

The Lakers are 22-42 and have failed to sell out two home games this season, both without Bryant, ending a streak of 320 consecutive home sellouts. Bryant averaged 13.8 points, 6.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds in his six games this season.

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