Kobe Bryant will stay sidelined for at six to nine months, trainer Gary Vitti said, because of a torn left Achilles tendon that requires surgery.
Vitti believes Bryant could return by the beginning of next season. The NBA will release the 2013-14 schedule in August, but teams usually begin the season by late October. Bryant will likely miss training camp, though, which will include two exhibition games against the Golden State Warriors both in Beijing (Oct. 15) and Shanghai (Oct. 18).
Vitti talked with reporters Saturday at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo shortly before Bryant was scheduled to have surgery at an undisclosed location. Vitti said the tear was a complete rupture and that he will be immobilized for a month before beginning his rehabilitation.
Bryant fell while while driving to the basket with 3:08 left in the Lakers’ 118-116 victory Friday over the Golden State Warriors. He stayed in the game after a timeout and made two free throws because he was fouled on the play. But then Bryant limped to the locker room. Bryant had averaged 45.6 minutes in the last seven games.
“To say he was injured because he played 48 minutes is a stretch,” Vitti said. “Lots of guys rupture their Achilles tendon and don’t play 48 minutes. To make that correlation, I don’t think is fair.”
Vitti also shot down suggestions that Lakers coach Phil Jackson would’ve reduced Bryant’s minutes.
“I don’t think that’s fair,” Vitti said. “Kobe’s an enigma and he;’s a warrior. I don’t know what would happen with Phil. Who knows. It’s all speculation. Phil wants to win too as much as Kobe and so knows how it would’ve panned out. We don’t know.”
Instead, Vitti attributed Bryant’s injury to something else.
“When something like this happens, everybody wants to know why, and there’s not always a reason why,” said Vitti, who’s been the Lakers head athletic trainer for 29 seasons. “Some of it’s just bad luck.”
The Lakers have experienced plenty of that.
The Lakers (43-37) only have a one-game lead over the Utah Jazz (42-38) for the Western Conference’s eighth playoff seed with two games remaining. Meanwhile, the Lakers have experienced a rash of injuries.
That includes Pau Gasol (30 games, numerous ailments), Steve Nash (30 games, fractured left leg and strained right hamstring), Steve Blake (37 games, abdominal and groin injuries), Jordan Hill (has stayed sidelined since having hip surgery January) Dwight Howard (surgically repaired back, torn labrum in right shoulder), Metta World Peace (six games, torn cartilage in left knee) and Antawn Jamison (sprained right wrist that will require surgery this offseason).
“When something like this happens, everyone wants to know why,” Vitti said. “There’s not always a reason why. If you look at our season, it’s been a nightmare.”
But it’s one Vitti remains optimistic Bryant will overcome.
“I said to him last night this is another challenge in your life,” Vitti said. “The game of basketball comes too easy for you. You need these things. The best thing you can do for us as media is say things that he can’t do it. That will force him to do it. He’s ready to take the challenge. He made the decision today to have the surgery. For us it’s going to keep him down and slow him down.”
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