The Lakers announced Wednesday that Kobe Bryant will miss the remainder of the 2013-14 season as he continues to rehabilitate his injured left knee.
"Obviously this has been a frustrating and disappointing season," Bryant said in a statement. "I appreciate all the support I've received from the Lakers and the fans, and look forward to being back and ready for the start of training camp."
The 16-time All-Star guard hadn't taken the court since Dec. 17, when he sustained a lateral tibial plateau fracture in his left knee, and his expected return date had been moved back on multiple occasions.
Immediately after the injury, the Lakers announced that Bryant would be sidelined for at least six weeks. Then, in late January, the organization said that Bryant would be out through the All-Star break with ongoing pain and swelling, and that he was limited to non-weight bearing exercises during his rehabilitation. Following the All-Star break, the Lakers again pushed back Bryant's earliest return date back to mid-March, roughly one month before the end of the 2013-14 regular season.
In his absence, L.A. is 22-42, which has them tied with the Kings for the worst record in the Western Conference and puts them 15.5 games out of the playoff picture.
"With Kobe’s injury still not healed, the amount of time he’d need to rehab and be ready to play, and the amount of time remaining in the season, we’ve simply run out of time for him to return,” Lakers trainer Gary Vitti said in a statement. “However, Kobe will have the entire offseason to heal, rehab and prepare, and we look forward to him being 100% for the start of next season.”
Bleacher Report indicated on Tuesday that the Lakers would make the decision to shut down Bryant this week. USA Today Sports also reported that Bryant's season was complete in advance of the announcement.
The five-time champion appeared in just six games for the Lakers after missing training camp, the preseason and the opening portion of the 2013-14 regular season as he recovered from a torn Achilles suffered in April 2013. His knee injury forced the league to name Pelicans forward Anthony Davis as an All-Star Game replacement for the Western Conference roster, and Rockets guard James Harden filled Bryant's spot in the West's starting lineup.
Back in November, Bryant signed a two-year, $48.5 million contract extension that ensured he will be the league’s highest-paid player through the 2015-16 season. Bryant, 35, averaged 13.8 points, 6.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game this season.