When Bryant sustained the injury on Dec. 17, 2013, he initially thought he had just hyperextended his knee. It was later revealed as a left tibial fracture of his left knee, the same leg on which he suffered a torn Achilles tendon.
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- With the 2013-14 season officially in the rearview window for Kobe Bryant after Wednesday's announcement that his left knee injury will keep him out of the final 18 games, the veteran guard took aim at the Lakers' front office in regards to the team's future.
"I think we have to start at the top in terms of the culture of our team," Bryant said. "What kind of culture do we want to have? What kind of system do we want to have? How do we want to play? It starts there and from there, you can start building out your team accordingly."
When asked to clarify what "the top" meant, Bryant pointed to executive vice president, Jim Buss, and his sister, Lakers president, Jeanie Buss. They assumed joint control of the franchise, along with their four other siblings, when longtime Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss died last February.
"You got to start with Jim," Bryant said. "You got to start with Jim and Jeanie and how that relationship plays out. It starts there and having a clear direction and clear authority. And then it goes down to the coaching staff and what Mike (D'Antoni) is going to do, what they're going to do with Mike and it goes from there. It's got to start at the top."
D'Antoni has one year remaining on his contract with the team, set to pay him $4 million, but has gone just 62-74 (.456) since joining the team last November, with a slew of injuries sabotaging the Lakers' roster in that time.
When there is talk of Jeanie Buss, her fiancé, Phil Jackson, is never too far behind. Bryant was also asked about the possibility of Jackson joining the New York Knicks in a front office capacity, which ESPN's Chris Broussard reported will happen by the end of the week.
“I’m Bruce Willis, man,” Bryant said, referencing Willis’ John McClane character in the “Die Hard” series. “I’m fine.”
It was a bold statement by a guy who had often seemed immune to the regular physical limitations of the human body through his first decade-and-a-half in the NBA.
An avulsion fracture in his index finger on his shooting hand? No problem. He said tape it up, he’d just guide the ball with his middle two fingers instead. A concussion suffered in the All-Star game? Just fix him a mask, there was no way he was going to miss any games on that count. A torn ligament in his left wrist from a preseason game? By the time the regular season rolled around, he committed to getting a cortisone shot in the wrist on a near nightly basis as to not miss any game time.
That is the tough-minded narrative that Bryant has built over time in the game. He is the player with 30,000-plus points, five rings, a remarkable 81-point night and he is the player who will push himself to play through pain.
Even when the torn Achilles in his leg carried with it a 6-9 month recovery period and Bryant was back on the court in less than eight months.
But this time is different. This time Bryant couldn’t just will himself through the second major injury in less than a year to that left leg of his.
This time, he’s human. And a 35-year-old human playing a game dominated by men in their mid 20s, at that.
"I think, for the first time, and these are my words, but for the first time, I sense frustration because it's a situation that he can't fully control because these last two injuries with the knee and the Achilles right before that are ones that they can be pretty devastating and they allow you to come back on the injury's time, not on your own time, on your own terms,” Shaw said.
When Bryant made his comeback from the Achilles, he announced it with a two-minute video on his Facebook page. The video showed his No. 24 Lakers uniform floating in the middle of the screen and being battered by the elements -- wind, rain, snow, etc.
Eventually, the jersey is torn down the middle of the chest, presumably representing the Achilles tear that Bryant suffered, before being repaired with a blinding beam of sunlight.
There’s no sunny spin on Bryant’s current predicament. Only clouds of doubt. Will he return to some approximation of the player he once was? And even if he does, will his $48.5 million contract extension prevent the Lakers from fielding a team around him that will allow him to compete for another championship in his final days in the league?
Right now, with all the uncertainty surrounding Bryant’s future, he seems much closer to Bruce Willis’ character in “The Sixth Sense.” His glory days may have already passed him by, never to return again.
The Los Angeles Lakers have ruled Kobe Bryant out for the remainder of the season after a re-examination of the veteran guard's injured knee showed it still hadn't healed, the team announced Wednesday.
Bryant has been sidelined since Dec. 17 with a fracture of the lateral tibial plateau in his left knee. He also missed the Lakers' first 19 games while recovering from a torn Achilles in his left leg suffered last season.
"Obviously this has been a frustrating and disappointing season, but 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," Bryant said in a statement released by the team.
Bryant addressed the media later Wednesday and said he has high expectations for when he returns.
"I don't want to say I'll be back at the top of my game, because everybody is going to think I'm crazy and an old player not letting go, that sort of thing," Bryant said. "But that's what it's going to be."
Bryant was examined Wednesday by team physician Steve Lombardo.
"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 percent for the start of next season."
Bryant said he made his decision to sit out the rest of the way Tuesday, prior to the final evaluation.
"The amount of time that we're looking at in terms of being able to get as healthy as possible and then get in shape so that you don't come back and get hurt again, by the time that's ready to go you're looking at a week left in the season or whatever the case may be and it didn't really seem worth it," Bryant said.
Bryant said that he has upped his rehabilitation from an exercise bicycle to an elliptical machine and hopes to run on a treadmill next week, but that the prolonged recovery should help him.
"You just continue to try to ramp up," Bryant said. "Now I find myself really looking at a seven-month training program. Just doing everything I can to get my body ready and be 100 percent and I have seven months to do that. So, I feel pretty good about it."
Bryant echoed the same thoughts on Twitter:
Thank you for all the support. 7months to get back And answer this challenge #healthy
For seven of the teams on our list this week, the lottery is now guaranteed. John Hollinger's Playoff Odds now have the Bucks, Sixers, Magic, Lakers, Jazz, Kings and Pelicans at a zero percent chance of making the playoffs. The Celtics are barely hanging on at 1.4 percent. The Cavs have a 2.9 percent chance and the Pistons are at 10.5 percent.
In other words, at this point, the incentive to tank has never been greater. With March Madness just around the corner, it's all about the NBA draft for these teams.
Here's our weekly look at where the 10 worst teams in the NBA stand in their quest for the No. 1 pick in the draft.
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When the Clippers beat the Lakers by 48 points last week the accomplishment was lost amid nationwide scuba diving to determine just how low the Lakers had sunk. Maybe now the Clippers’ accomplishments in that landmark victory and their seven-game winning streak can bob to the surface. People can realize that the Lakers didn’t simply roll over, the Clippers did plenty of kicking. The Clippers turned a 15-point lead against the Lakers into a 52-point lead. The Thunder turned an 18-point lead into an 18-point deficit, and then an L. “You can’t play the score, you have to play the game,” Oklahoma City’s Derek Fisher said, in one of those veteran-y quotes.
Oh, and the Clippers are now within 2½ games of Oklahoma City’s second spot in the Western Conference standings. So, yeah, Sunday was a good day for the Clippers.
The one thing you haven’t heard the Clippers do lately is lament. As in: “We did not come with the defensive intensity that we needed in the third quarter,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks lamented.
That’s a verb used only when you don’t get what you want. The Clippers have gotten the W in their past seven games, making them the hottest team in the league at the moment. They’re beginning to grasp the defensive concepts Doc Rivers is preaching, and held four of seven opponents to less than 100 points during the streak, a standard they failed to meet in nine of their previous 10 games.
While they’re reaching a crescendo, the Thunder have fallen into what Coach Brooks called “a defensive valley,” allowing opponents to score 110 points per game and shoot 47 percent while losing five of their past eight games. They dropped into second place in the Western Conference, a half game behind the San Antonio Spurs, who’ve won six straight and have to be feeling good about themselves as well.
Brooks was as critical as he gets about his team, saying, “It comes down to taking pride in guarding your man and we had trouble staying in front of the basketball tonight” as well as “In the third quarter we did not come out with the defensive toughness it takes to win in this league.”
The Thunder aren’t making excuses about the absence of the injured Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins, but it’s clearly an issue.
“Thabo is a defensive player,” Brooks said. “Perk is one of our best defensive players. He’s not only good on the post, he’s good on the pick-and-roll coverage and he’s good at communicating.”
Perkins communicates not only on the court but in the locker room and through the media, quick to call out insufficient efforts from his team. He wasn’t around Sunday, so that left it to Fisher.
Yes, Kevin Durant, a 40 percent 3-point shooter on the season, has shot 33 percent on 3-pointers in February and is 9-for-32 (28 percent) in four games in March. And just when it seemed Russell Westbrook had regained his shooting touch by making 58 percent of his shots in the previous five games, he cratered to a 7-for-23 (30 percent) shooting performance Sunday afternoon.
Those aren’t the type of things that have Fisher concerned.
“It’s a larger perspective in terms of just where we are as a team, our mentality, our mindset, our ability to bring the right type of focus to the game,” Fisher said.
“As a team we have to decide what’s most important to us. And if it’s the team’s success, then you’ll start to see offensively and defensively things tighten up the way they need to tighten up. Just in terms of respecting the game, respecting each other, bringing the right sense of urgency to our jobs.
“I don’t question guys’ commitment to the team, I’m just saying we’re not right now putting it out there on the court."
The Thunder left the arena muttering to themselves, the Lakers were granted a temporary reprieve from their miserable season, and Jodie Meeks had a career-high 42 points to savor. Nobody had it better than the Clippers, though. They had a day off to enjoy a beautiful afternoon in L.A., and their status improved at the same time.
When Meeks was asked if the Lakers could glean anything from their 107-103 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder before the All-Star break that they could apply to Sunday's matchup, Meeks made it clear that circumstances had changed.
You see, Meeks sat out that previous meeting because of a sprained ankle.
And boy did he back it up.
After the Lakers fell down by as many as 18 points in the first half, Meeks scored 20 of his career-high 42 points to help the Lakers storm back for the 114-110 victory over the Western Conference-leading Thunder.
"It's one of those games, man," Meeks said after going 11-for-18 from the field, including 6-for-11 on 3-pointers. "It's was fun out there. The most important thing is I was glad we got the win."
As encouraging as the offense was, it was Meeks' defense that provided the ultimate lift. With the Thunder trailing by 110-107 with 33.7 seconds left, it was Meeks who defended Russell Westbrook at the top of the key as the Thunder's All-Star launched an airball as he tried to tie the game.
"I think defensively he was out of sight and on Westbroook the whole time," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "So that's a lot of energy that he put out to win that game. But you know what? He's been doing that on a pretty consistent basis all year."
While Westbrook wanted no part in crediting Meeks ("There's nothing for me to talk about," Westbrook said when asked about Meeks' performance), Meeks heaped praise on Westbrook even though he had eight turnovers and shot 2-for-10 from 3.
"He's a tough cover," Meeks said. "He's a great player."
Meeks also had four steals, twice sniffing out a lazy pass by the Thunder and turning it into a breakaway opportunity that left Oklahoma City no choice but to foul him, leading to two clear-path violations.
"Every game I try to watch film on the opponent and try to see some of the passes they make," Meeks said. "Sometimes I'll get burned on backdoors, but a lot of the time I'm successful on steals."
LOS ANGELES -- Turns out that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook aren't all that intimidating when you have Jodie Meeks on your side.
Meeks exploded for a career-high 42 points, and the same Los Angeles Lakers defense that had given up an average of 136 points in their last three games held the Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City Thunder to 26 points below that in the Lakers' most shocking win of the season.
It was appropriate that Meeks was the guy to lead the way. In a season marred by injuries and inconsistency, Meeks could be counted on all year, scoring in double digits in 51 of the 59 games he played in.
Sure, Durant and Westbrook combined for 47 points, but they shot just 15-for-42 compared to Meeks' 11-for-18.
How it happened: It looked like another long night for L.A. as it fell down by 18 points early, but the Lakers outscored the Thunder 36-19 in the third quarter (shooting 11-for-19) to get back in it. They rode that wave of momentum all the way to an 18-point fourth-quarter lead of their own before holding off a furious Thunder rally. Meeks ended up guarding Westbrook at the 3-point line with 33.7 seconds left when Westbrook air-balled a 3 that would have tied the game. Kent Bazemore tacked on two of his seven fourth-quarter points with a layup, and the Lakers held on.
What it means: That impressive road win in Portland last week was all but forgotten after the Los Angeles Clippers completely embarrassed the Lakers by 48 points. But Sunday's effort proved that this Lakers season isn't just going to spiral out of control over these final five weeks. There's too much pride in that locker room.
Hits: The Lakers shot 13-for-31 from 3 (41.9 percent).
Pau Gasol had 20 points and 11 rebounds.
Jordan Farmar scored 12 off the bench, going 3-for-4 from 3.
Ryan Kelly had a career-high eight assists.
Misses: The Lakers were outrebounded 59-36.
Stat of the game: 11. Meeks eclipsed his previous career high of 31 points by 11 points with 42.
Up next: The Lakers get a bit of a respite with no game until Thursday, when they travel to play Oklahoma City again, followed by the San Antonio Spurs on the road Friday.
LOS ANGELES -- Jodie Meeks scored 24 of his career-high 42 points in the second half, and the Los Angeles Lakers beat Oklahoma City 114-110 on Sunday despite a triple-double by Thunder star Kevin Durant.
Pau Gasol added 20 points and 11 rebounds for the injury-ravaged Lakers, who had lost 29 of their previous 37 games. Meeks was 11 of 18 from the field and 14 for 14 at the line while becoming the third player to reach the 30-point mark this season for Los Angeles.
Meeks is averaging 19.2 points in 11 games since returning from a sprained right ankle. Before the injury, he was averaging 14.4.
Durant had 27 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists for his third triple-double this season. Serge Ibaka had 21 points and 15 boards for Oklahoma City.