Lakers star Kobe Bryant is expected to miss the rest of the season with a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, but the team will wait until Monday to make an official decision, Yahoo Sports/FOX Sports 1 NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski reported Friday.
The Lakers announced Friday that the team’s doctors had confirmed the initial diagnosis of a torn rotator cuff, but also said Bryant is scheduled to meet another doctor Monday and an official decision on treatment will not be determined until then.
"We know it’s a tear, but we don’t know to what degree," Lakers coach Byron Scott said Friday in San Antonio. "Monday we’ll find out if he’s going to have surgery or not. That’s disappointing in of itself. We know we’re going to miss him for a length of time, we just don’t know how long yet."
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The Lakers said the team doctors discussed multiple treatment options with Bryant, including surgery. Undergoing surgery would end Bryant’s season.
It’s clear the 36-year-old Bryant has a major injury for the third straight season, his famously resilient body finally wearing down from the accumulated grind of nearly two decades with the Lakers and numerous long postseason runs.
He tore his Achilles tendon in April 2013, and he played in just six games last season before breaking a bone near his left knee.
"He’s one of the toughest guys I’ve ever been around as far as dealing with injuries and things like that, and being able to come back," Scott said after the Lakers’ morning shootaround in San Antonio on Friday. "Everybody said he was done after the Achilles, and he came back pretty strong. Knowing him the way I know him, I know he doesn’t want to go out this way. I think he will rehab it if that’s the case, and then we’ll wait and see."
Team physician Steve Lombardo confirmed the initial diagnosis and discussed treatment options with Bryant on Friday. Bryant will be examined again by Neal ElAttrache of the Kerlan Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic on Monday, and they’ll decide whether Bryant should have surgery.
Bryant was injured while throwing down a two-handed dunk in the Lakers’ loss to the Pelicans. He traveled home before the Lakers played at San Antonio on Friday night.
Bryant has sat out eight games in the last month to rest, so the struggling Lakers (12-31) have grown used to playing without their top scorer.
Bryant was voted into a starting spot in the NBA All-Star Game, but the 36-year-old guard could miss the Feb. 15 showcase for the second straight year due to the injury. Bryant, a 17-time All-Star selection in his 19-year career, was voted a starter last year despite playing just six games before breaking a bone near his left knee and missing the rest of the season.
Bryant felt shoulder pain at the beginning of the season, but hadn’t mentioned it lately. The Lakers believe Bryant’s torn rotator cuff occurred on the dunk.
"I said, ‘Are you all right?’" Scott recalled. "He was like, ‘Yeah, I’m good, just bothering me a little bit. Once I get warmed up, I’m fine.’ After that point, I never thought about it."
Although the Lakers rested Bryant extensively this season to preserve the wear on his high-mileage body, Scott still laments playing Kobe for too many minutes in early-season games. Bryant has been on a strict 32-minute limit over the past month.
The Lakers repeatedly have said they’re determined to preserve Bryant’s health into next season, when he is due to make $25 million. Los Angeles has struggled on the court for two straight seasons, but Bryant remains one of the world’s most popular athletes, with his presence essentially guaranteeing a sellout in arenas across North America.
Bryant is the NBA’s highest-paid player at $23.5 million this season.