The Lakers said Tuesday that Kobe Bryant continues to be bothered by pain and swelling in his left knee and that he will not even be re-examined for three more weeks, another blow to a team in free fall as well as essentially knocking Bryant from the Feb. 16 All-Star Game.
Bryant was examined by team physician Dr. Steve Lombardo before the game against the Pacers in Los Angeles. The update that followed said Bryant “will continue with a program of non-weight bearing exercise, consisting mostly of working out on a stationary bike” and that, under the new timeline, it is possible playing in late-February just became a best-case scenario for a return to the lineup.
Bryant received more votes than any Western Conference guard in fan balloting to determine the starting lineups, more than anyone in the East backcourt as well, and the second-most support in the West behind Kevin Durant. If Thursday’s diagnosis holds and there is no miracle cure in the recovery from the fractured knee, a commissioner, likely the incoming Adam Silver and not the outgoing David Stern, would select the roster replacement for the mid-season showcase in New Orleans. The West coach, Scott Brooks, would decide on the new opening lineup.
The roster will not be filled out until the reserves for both teams, chosen by coaches voting for their respective conference, is announced Thursday. Once it is known who has made the West squad and who was left off, league officials will know the candidates to replace Bryant.
Bryant has played six games, missing the start of the season while recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, coming back Dec. 8, and then hurting the knee. The Lakers, 10-9 without him the first time and proud of their resiliency amid a torrential downpour of health problems, have crumbled in their superstar’s second absence, at 16-29 heading into Tuesday against the Pacers and just a half-game ahead of the Kings for last place in the conference.
Brooks’ spot was clinched Tuesday when the Trail Blazers lost, eliminating Terry Stotts from consideration and sending the Thunder staff to New Orleans.