Kobe Bryant has made six appearances so far this season. (Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images)
The Lakers announced Thursday that Kobe Bryant will miss six weeks after suffering a fractured lateral tibial plateau in his left knee. If Bryant is sidelined exactly six weeks, he will be out for L.A.'s next 21 games with an expected return date in the last week of January.
"Broken, not beaten," Bryant tweeted Thursday.
The five-time champion has appeared in only six games this season after rehabilitating from a torn left Achilles tendon that ended his 2012-13 season in mid-April. He made his season debut on Dec. 8 against the Raptors, just 11 days ago.
"You hate it for Kobe," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "He's worked so hard to get back."
L.A. was 10-9 before Bryant's return and 2-4 since. The 15-time All-Star guard is averaging 13.8 points, 6.3 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 5.7 turnovers in 29.5 minutes this season.
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The injury occurred during L.A.'s 96-92 victory over Memphis on Tuesday. With a little more than three minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bryant fell to the court and clutched his left knee after backing down Tony Allen in the post. There didn't appear to be any direct contact to his knee on the play, and Bryant returned to the game following the injury. He finished with 21 points (on 9-for-18 shooting), five rebounds and four assists.
"I twisted it a little bit, it's a little stiff right now," Bryant told TWC SportsNet during a post-game interview. "I was a little uncertain of it in the fourth quarter. All in all, my body felt pretty good considering the schedule."
Bryant, 35, was the Western Conference's second-leading vote-getter in the first round of All-Star returns, and he's penciled in as a starter for the game. His recovery timeline suggests that he will be back on the court roughly two weeks before the All-Star Game, which will be held on Feb. 16 in New Orleans. However, Bryant will miss the Lakers' highly-anticipated Christmas Day showdown with the Heat.
The Lakers are currently coping without Steve Nash, Jordan Farmar and Steve Blake due to various injuries. D'Antoni will make due in the short-term with the likes of Jodie Meeks, Wesley Johnson, Nick Young and Xavier Henry in his backcourt. Henry, a fourth-year guard who has averaged 9.6 points and 2.6 rebounds this season, is expected to move into Bryant's starting spot. L.A. also announced Thursday that Nash, who hasn't played since Nov. 10, will be out at least four more weeks.
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.