Timberwolves-Lakers Preview

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 (12-13) on Dec. 8

after nearly eight months away while recovering from a torn

Achilles tendon. He apparently was hurt again Tuesday in a 96-92

win at 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 as they prepare

to host Minnesota (13-13) on Friday night.

”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.

The Lakers signed point guard Kendall Marshall, a lottery pick

by Phoenix in 2012, out of the D-League on Friday.

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.

”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 the torn Achilles

tendon.

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.”

Bryant matched his season high with 21 points Tuesday, but he

went to the floor with 3:25 left in the third quarter. He stayed

down 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, Los Angeles’ second in six games since his return,

and played 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.”

Without Bryant on Nov. 10, the Lakers saw their 22-game run

against the Timberwolves come to an end with a 113-90 home loss. It

was the longest active winning streak between two NBA opponents,

and Bryant had played in all but one of those victories.

Kevin Love had 25 points and 13 rebounds in last month’s meeting

and Kevin Martin scored 27 for Minnesota.

Love scored 29 points, grabbed 15 boards and handed out nine

assists Wednesday as the Timberwolves beat Portland 120-109 for

their fourth win in six games.

“Awesome,” Wolves point guard Ricky Rubio said about Love.

”There’s no words to describe. He’s doing a great job leading this

team in scoring, rebounding, even assisting. He’s taking my

job.”

Nikola Pekovic had a season-high 30 points and added nine

rebounds, while Martin scored 22.