remains shelved for the Lakers
, who have lost 16 of their last 19. (Christian Petersen/NBAE/Getty Images)
This Thursday will mark the conclusion of Kobe Bryant's initial six-week timetable for return from a left knee injury, but don't expect him back on the court for the Lakers just yet.
According to Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report, Bryant's injury -- a lateral tibial plateau fracture suffered in mid-December -- has not recovered to the point that an immediate return is plausible, forcing him to miss at least another two weeks:
Bryant’s left knee hasn’t healed yet, even though the Lakers had initially been pointing to a medical re-evaluation Tuesday as a point at which he might be cleared to play. Bryant’s level of discomfort is such that his visit with Lakers doctor Steve Lombardo on Tuesday evening before the Lakers face the Indiana Pacers will not even include an MRI or any other diagnostic procedure to judge the bone’s healing, according to a team source.
Ding also noted that Bryant could potentially miss as much as a month. There's really no rush at this point. The Lakers are tied for the second-worst record in the Western Conference, 9½ games out of playoff position. Considering that Bryant didn't play well (42.5 percent shooting, 5.7 turnovers per game) in six games before this latest injury, expecting him to elevate an injured, defenseless team to a respectable standing would be far too much. In terms of wins and losses, L.A. has essentially run out of things to play for this season.
GOLLIVER: Midseason grades for all 30 NBA teams
The priority for both Bryant and the Lakers' franchise, then, is his long-term health. I
t would benefit no one to have Bryant battling lingering injury through the end of this season or next, especially when there's so little to gain. Instead, Bryant can take as long as he needs to make sure that as much discomfort is alleviated as possible, and then use whatever remains of the season to ease his way back onto the court. His All-Star spot might well be forfeit, but that would be of little consequence because Bryant has already articulated his desire to sit out the weekend's festivities