Declared the team to beat in the preseason, the Los Angeles Lakers (44-37) are just barely clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the NBA’s Western Conference with one game remaining to play.
Even if the Lakers make the playoffs, the team will struggle to compete without superstar Kobe Bryant, who will be out of action the next six to nine months recovering from surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon in his left leg. Bryant averaged 27.3 points per game—third highest in the NBA this season.
“I’ve never really had to deal with something like this,” Bryant, 34, told ESPN. “It’s a new experience for me. Obviously, there’s been a bunch of players that have had the same injury, so all I can do is look at them and what they’ve done and who had more success coming back quicker and healthier and see what they did and see if I can improve upon it.”
Recovery time following surgery for a torn Achilles can range from a few months to a year. The rehabilitation process has brought about the end of several NBA careers, including those of Hall of Fame players Charles Barkley and Isiah Thomas.
Bryant isn’t the only Laker to be sidelined with an injury this season. Dwight Howard (shoulder), Steve Nash (leg), Steve Blake (abdomen), Jordan Hill (hip), and Metta World Peace (knee) all missed time because of injuries.
“When something like this happens, everybody wants to know why and there’s not always a reason why.” Lakers trainer Gary Vitti said. “If you look at our season, it’s been a nightmare.”