For Lakers, ‘goodbye, Kobe’ means ‘goodbye, season’

Kobe Bryant's back to the bench after two weeks on the court.

Harry How

In a season that now seems horribly cursed, Kobe Bryant is down again.

There is no sense believing the Lakers can recover from this. The playoffs are out. Their future is not so much in the hands of their remaining players as it is in next year’s draft.

That’s what this dreadful season has become. Any ill-conceived notion that Bryant could somehow lift the Lakers into contenders disappeared Thursday with the news that he’s out for six weeks with a fracture in his left knee.

Goodbye, season. Goodbye, Kobe. See you again in late January, if then.

That’s 21 games, assuming his knee heals completely and he’s able to resume playing efficiently. But he’s also 35 years old, and now he’s staring at a comeback from two significant injuries to his left leg.

Bryant was less than two weeks into his return from a torn left Achilles tendon, and although he was beginning to look more fluid on the court, he certainly wasn’t what anyone would consider vintage Kobe.

His loss leaves the Lakers (12-13) without a point guard. Steve Nash is out at least another month with nerve root irritation in his back, Steve Blake is recovering from a torn ligament in his left elbow and Jordan Farmar’s torn hamstring is still healing. A miracle worker wouldn’t save them.

The Lakers are a MASH unit. At best, they were a .500 team with a relatively healthy Bryant; now, the only Western Conference teams they could possibly finish ahead of are Sacramento and Utah.

They are better off letting this season play out and dismissing any thoughts about a winning record or a playoff push. They don’t currently have any 2015 draft picks, but still have a first-round pick in 2014, and a lucky bounce in the lottery could conceivably move them into a prime position. Even if they don’t get it, a deep college draft class gives them hope to rebuild.

What the Lakers can’t do is allow themselves to continue aging. They are too old already. Their next offseason should be one in which general manager Mitch Kupchak does a major makeover, almost from top to bottom.

There’s nothing they can do about Bryant. Rightly or wrongly, they’ve already signed him to a two-year, $48.5-million contract extension, a deal that was consummated before Bryant returned to the court Dec. 8.

In six games, Bryant averaged 13.8 points and 6.3 assists in 29 1/2 minutes. But he also made 34 turnovers, an indication he was taking risks and failing to protect the ball.

He scored 21 points against the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday, but it was that game in which he injured his knee. He said he thought he had hyperextended it. An MRI on Thursday proved otherwise.

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The Lakers were 2-4 since he returned to the lineup. What they’ll do over the next 21 games is really almost irrelevant.

Bryant is lost and the season is up in smoke. It doesn’t get much worse than that for a franchise that proudly hangs 11 NBA championship banners on the wall at Staples Center.

All they can do now is wait until next season. Frankly, Bryant should do the same thing.