Lakers Better Off If Kobe Bryant Out For Year With Torn Rotator Cuff
The Los Angeles Lakers are 12-31, the second-worst record in the Western Conference. They were likely to stay near the bottom of the standings even if Kobe Bryant were healthy, although Kobe could have willed them to a few wins that the Lakers might not normally have had.
However, it’s key that Los Angeles get a Top-5 draft pick this season because anything lower than No. 5 automatically goes to the Phoenix Suns as the final payment for the lopsided Steve Nash trade. Thus the news Thursday that Kobe has a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder could actually be a good thing as the team can sit Kobe the rest of the season and assure it finishes with one of the worst marks in the NBA.
Bryant injured the shoulder in Wednesday’s 96-80 loss in New Orleans. He apparently was hurt after dunking with 4:14 left in the third quarter. When Kobe came back in the game late in the fourth quarter, he dribbled left-handed and even attempted a turnaround lefty jumper. Clearly something was wrong in that shoulder. The MRI Thursday revealed the problem, which is usually something you see in major-league pitchers, not NBA players. This means he’s had a torn Achilles, a broken kneecap, a dislocated finger and a torn rotator cuff in the past 24 months
Kobe obviously won’t play Friday in San Antonio as he will be examined by team doctors that day. The Lakers will update his condition then, but there’s just no reason to play Bryant again this season. He is averaging 22.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists but is leading the league in shot attempts and hitting just 37.3 percent of his shots, the lowest of his career. Bryant was voted in by fans to start the All-Star Game for a 17th straight season but there’s no way he will play there. ironically, the game is being held at Madison Square Garden, the site of Kobe’s first All-Star Game.
The most recent NBA player to tear his rotator cuff is San Antonio’s Patty Mills. He injured his shoulder in July and didn’t return until a few games ago, so all indications point to Bryant being out for the remainder of the 2014-15 season. The Lakers enter Friday’s game, in which they will be sizable underdogs, on a six-game losing streak. That figures to reach at least 10 as the team’s next three games, all at home, are against playoff clubs: Houston (Sunday), Washington (Jan. 27) and Chicago (Jan. 29). The Lakers have lost six of eight games with Bryant out of the lineup thus far in 2014-15.
Really this injury is not about this season any longer. It’s whether Kobe returns at all — you know he won’t want to out this way — and whether his recent injury history deter big-name free agents from coming to Los Angeles this summer. The Lakers are targeting guys like Cleveland’s Kevin Love, Phoenix’s Goran Dragic and Dallas’ Rajon Rondo.
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