Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Gut feeling: Just another challenge that Kobe will attack and conquer, or beginning of the end?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: It seems pretty clear to me we have entered the end game with Kobe Bryant. He doesn’t have time to be losing big chunks of this or any season to injuries and rehabs, and what might be a flukey, sad coincidence when two injuries in rapid succession happen to 25-year-old Derrick Rose seems more ominous with 35-year-old Bryant. It’s hard to envision him getting back to All-Star level, never mind Top Five.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: At 35, with so many miles on his body, every day is the next step toward the end. It’s simply the natural process of the body telling all of us that we can’t go on forever. That said, Kobe is so driven, so fiery, that he’ll recommit himself again to rehab and be back out on the court as soon as he’s able. Maybe it makes him re-think what is possible. Maybe it makes him set his sights a little lower. Maybe it makes him try more to fit in than to be the lead dog. Nah, he’s Kobe. He only has one gear.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Kobe certainly isn’t used to this injury stuff. Coming off the rehab of his life following the Achilles tear, this will indeed be another physical and emotional challenge. But, if initial team reports are correct, this is a six-week recovery, not the seven months of grueling rehab he just completed. Hopefully the recovery from the fractured left knee won’t retard, or at least not much, the progress he’s made strengthening his left Achilles tendon. There’s no doubt he will attack this and conquer it. It’s the way he’s wired. No chance he allows this setback to break him. No chance. Just good thing for him he’s already put that autograph on a two-year, $48.5 million contract.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: That depends on your definition of “beginning of the end.” Bryant will be back and he will make an impact. But the beginning of the end was already beginning. Kobe himself was the first to say Father Time was getting more good looks than ever against Bryant, and then came the Achilles’ tendon injury. Being 35 and coming off that health concern would have been enough of a climb. And that injury is probably still the more pressing of the rehabilitations, not the fractured knee.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: We’ve probably seen the last of superstar Kobe, so the beginning of the end was really the Achilles tear in April. I’m sure he can come back and finish out his contract in some shape or form. But really, he’s 35 years old, he has suffered two major injuries to the same leg in the last 8 ½ months, and was showing signs of regression (on the defensive end of the floor) before he got hurt the first time.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: My gut tells me that Kobe, one of the truly undeniable forces of nature the game has ever seen, will do whatever it takes to battle his way back from this devastating setback and finish his career on his own terms. But my mind keeps going back to the words Chris Webber spoke on Episode 142 of the Hang Time Podcast and his keen observation, as someone who had battled injuries at the end of his own stellar career. You realize this has to be the beginning of the end of the Kobe Bean Bryant we’ve all come to know and respect (not even his critics can deny that the man has had a wicked work ethic over the course of his career). I just don’t see how there is any other view of this thing. Two significant lower leg injuries, to the same leg mind you, in nine months … unfathomable for a player who has been as durable as Kobe has been the past 17 years. When his contract ends I think Kobe calls it quits, regardless of what’s left to accomplish in his mind.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com: I have said all along that I don’t believe there is an end for Kobe. I’m not a doctor (and have never played one on TV) so I don’t know Kobe’s body and don’t know how many miles he has left on there. But no player of his generation — of any generation, really — has consistently shown this kind of drive and determination. I can’t count him out until he says he’s out.