What was always a possibility, now seems to be a reality. On Tuesday night Kevin Ding reported (and now ESPN is as well) that Kobe Bryant will not play again this season:
The words are about to become official. Kobe Bryant, out for the season. The Los Angeles Lakers are expected to declare Bryant out for the rest of the 2013-14 season later this week, according to team sources. Bryant is not accompanying the team on its trip to Oklahoma City and San Antonio, staying back to be reexamined by team doctor Steve Lombardo. And considering where Bryant’s level of discomfort remains with the fractured lateral tibial plateau in his left knee, barring an unforeseen change, the team will finalize the decision that Bryant will not play again this season.
As the season played out and Kobe continued to make little progress, the likelihood of him suiting up again this year decreased. Still, though, it’s a bummer to know that it won’t be until September or October that we actually see Kobe play in an NBA game.
And it’s not just a bummer because I like watching Kobe ply his craft against NBA competition. It is just as much about Kobe only playing in six games after rupturing his achilles tendon, never truly getting back on the floor where he could fully test his recovery and adapt back to working on the repaired tendon. Further, the fact that he ended up injuring the knee on the same leg as his achilles tear only means that any progress made in terms of building up strength in that leg was not only halted, but probably reversed.
What Kobe faces now is a multi-layered hole he must try to dig himself out of. Not only is he facing an uncertain timeline of when he can return to working out in a normal way, but when he does he’ll be doing so on a leg that has not been tested in game situations for over a year. With that time off not only comes the big job of reworking himself physically as a pure athlete, but also the timing and court sense that comes with being a professional basketball player. Yes, I understand that for someone like Kobe this is akin to riding a bike (you never really forget) but when you combine it with adjusting to any physical limitations he may have it creates a scenario that isn’t so simple.
This isn’t to say I doubt Kobe Bryant’s ability to return to a level of effectiveness that can approximate the standard he’s shown over his last few seasons. But it will be a pretty big undertaking that, if he’s unable to achieve that standard it would not be a huge surprise. As Kobe has said himself, father time is undefeated. And when father time has injuries and lengthy stretches of inactivity on his side, you’d imagine his job only gets easier.
This is what Kobe is up against now and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned.