Kobe likely to miss 6 weeks with fracture in knee

Kobe Bryant is expected to miss about six weeks with an injured

left knee, dealing the second major injury setback of the year to

the Los Angeles Lakers’ superstar guard.

An MRI exam on Thursday revealed Bryant has a fracture in his

lateral tibial plateau – the top of his shinbone near his knee.

Bryant made his season debut with the Lakers Dec. 8 after nearly

eight months away while recovering from a torn Achilles tendon. He

apparently was hurt again Tuesday night in Memphis while playing

his fourth game in five nights.

After playing six games in 10 days, the fourth-leading scorer in

NBA history is out again until February or longer – and the Lakers’

already miserable run of injuries got even uglier.

”You hate it for Kobe,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni told

reporters after practice Thursday. ”He’s worked so hard to get

back, but he’ll be back. He’ll be back in six weeks. We’ve just got

to weather the storm until he gets back.”

The Lakers also announced Steve Nash will be out for at least

four more weeks with nerve root irritation, leaving injury-riddled

Los Angeles without its top three point guards and Bryant – who

filled in at the point in recent games – for at least another

week.

On Thursday afternoon, a tweet was posted on Bryant’s official

Twitter account that consisted solely of the hashtag:

BrokenNotBeaten.

”I think he’ll be back in six weeks, and he’ll be hunting for

some bear,” D’Antoni said.

The rest of the Lakers found out about Bryant’s injury after

practice for Friday’s home game against Minnesota. The remnants of

the Lakers, who have lost four of six since Bryant’s return, also

will host Miami on Christmas Day.

”It’s hard to get this type of news, especially when we’ve got

already so many injuries, when we’ve been through so many injuries

the year before,” Pau Gasol said. ”It just keeps piling up. It’s

not the best thing for us, for sure, but we’ve just got to continue

to go forward. We understand it can happen.”

D’Antoni immediately faced questions about whether the Lakers

allowed Bryant to return too quickly from his torn Achilles tendon.

Athletes with an Achilles injury must remain immobile for months,

and they typically need several weeks to regain muscle in their

legs and get back into game shape.

Bryant pushed himself to return to the Lakers quickly, but his

left leg appeared to be visibly smaller than his right leg after

months of inactivity and atrophy. D’Antoni and the Lakers’ top

brass often joke about their inability to control Bryant’s

relentless determination to play, even at the risk of his own

health.

”It could happen at any time,” D’Antoni said of Bryant’s

latest injury. ”That’s part of it. There’s always going to be a

risk until he gets used to playing, but the doctors are all over

it. That’s just bad luck.”

Los Angeles signed Bryant to a lavish two-year, $48.5 million

contract extension last month, taking him into his 20th season with

the Lakers. Most of Los Angeles’ roster will be free agents this

summer.

Bryant matched his season high with 21 points in the Lakers’ win

at Memphis, but he went to the floor with 3:25 left in the third

quarter. He stayed on the floor briefly before standing up, and

Bryant bent over at the waist as he flexed his left leg back and

forth. He walked to the bench with trainer Gary Vitti, but returned

to the floor following the timeout.

He hit a deep 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter to help

clinch the win and finished playing more than 32 minutes. Bryant

said after the game that he twisted his knee, but it felt all

right.

”I just hyperextended it,” Bryant said when asked to describe

what happened on the play. ”I tend to hyperextend my knees every

now and then.”

Buried behind the implications of Bryant’s latest injury, the

Lakers got yet more bad news about the 39-year-old Nash, who has

been injured for most of his two seasons in Los Angeles. The

two-time NBA MVP has played in just six games this season and

hasn’t suited up since Nov. 10, repeatedly traveling home to

Vancouver to undergo rehabilitation on his perpetually balky back

and hamstrings.

Nash made it clear another month off is just a rough guideline

for his return.

”I think I’m making strides for sure,” Nash said. ”I think

the biggest thing is durability. There’s such a fine line when I do

get up to speed where I can do a lot of stuff. To be able to

sustain it is the key right now. I know I can get back to an

acceptable level of movement. It’s just a matter of how long I can

sustain it.”

Xavier Henry, the 6-foot-6 shooting guard who has been a

pleasant surprise in his first year with Los Angeles, is the

Lakers’ new starting point guard, D’Antoni said. While Nash, Bryant

and Steve Blake are out with long-term injuries, Jordan Farmar will

be re-evaluated Tuesday in his return from a torn hamstring, with

the Lakers hoping he’ll be back before January.