HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Six games into his return from an Achilles’ tendon tear, Kobe Bryant is expected to miss six weeks with a fractured left knee, the team announced Thursday afternoon via Twitter.
Bryant suffered a fracture of the lateral tibial plateau, brutal news for a Los Angeles Lakers team that is already depleted at point guard and struggling to get back to .500. Coach Mike D’Antoni said Xavier Henry will assume those duties and will start alongside Jodie Meeks when the Lakers next play Friday night at home against Minnesota.
The Lakers (12-13) were 2-4 in Bryant’s return and coming off a 2-2 road trip. Bryant was beginning to show signs of regaining his endurance, logging 32, 32 and 33 minutes in his last three games. The four-game road trip was split into two sets of back-to-backs.
Bryant apparently fractured the knee in the third quarter of Tuesday’s 96-92 win at Memphis, meaning he played the fourth quarter with the injury. Bryant played 6:35 of the fourth quarter and scored three of his 21 points.
Afterward, according to the Los Angeles Times, Bryant thought he had hyper-extended the knee
Bryant missed the first 19 games of the season following last April’s surgery to repair his left Achilles’ tendon. He averaged 13.8 points and 6.3 assists and was forced into playing point guard because of injuries to Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar. The team announced that Nash will not be reevaluated for a month.
The Lakers sit in 11th place in the Western Conference. After Minnesota, they face Golden State and Phoenix on the road before coming home for the Christmas Day game against the two-time champion Heat.