Kobe Bryant is expected to miss approximately six weeks after undergoing an MRI that revealed a fracture of the lateral tibial plateau in his left knee.
“You hate it for Kobe,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He’s worked so hard getting back, but he’ll be back. We just have to weather the storm till he gets back.”
Bryant, who hyperextended his knee late in the third quarter at Memphis, returned to finish the game in the Lakers 96-92 win. He played six-and-a-half minutes in the fourth, draining a key three-pointer from 28 feet out with 2:39 left. Bryant tied his season high with 21 points, to go along with five rebounds and four assists.
“I knew he got scared because he hyperextended his knee, but he shook it off,” Pau Gasol said. “He continued to play until the very end, which again, shows how tough Kobe is, how much he’s able to play through and what he’s able to play through.”
Bryant made his season debut on Dec. 8 against Toronto, nearly eight months after tearing his Achilles in April of last season. In six games, Bryant averaged 13.8 points, 6.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds. On Monday at Atlanta, he surpassed Elvin Hayes (54,160) and John Stockton (54,162) for fifth all-time in regular season and playoff minutes combined in NBA history.
With Steve Blake (elbow), Steve Nash (nerve root irritation) and Jordan Farmar (hamstring) still out, the Lakers have just three healthy guards on their roster: Xavier Henry, Jodie Meeks and Nick Young.
“It’s been rough, it’s been rough,” Gasol said. “I was hoping this season (we were) going to be healthier than (we were) was last season, but it’s been one (injury) after another. But it’s not an excuse for us not to go out there and do our best and continue to compete and try to get wins.”
Henry, who had been handling backup point guard duties, moves into the starting lineup alongside Meeks, Wesley Johnson, Jordan Hill and Gasol.