Injury Will Keep Kobe Bryant Out for Remainder of Lakers' Season

A left knee injury has sidelined the Lakers star during a "disappointing and frustrating" season

Kobe Bryant won't be back on the court for the Lakers this season.

The Lakers said Bryant was examined Wednesday by team physician Dr. Steve Lombardo, who determined that the injury that has kept Bryant out of the lineup still hasn't healed.  Bryant is recovering from a fractured lateral tibial plateau of his left knee.

Bryant issued a statement through the team saying that this has been a disappointing and frustrating season. He has played in just six games this season, the fewest in the five-time NBA champion's career.

"But I appreciate all the support I've received from the Lakers and the fans, and look forward to being back and ready for the start of training camp," Bryant said.

Bryant missed the first 19 games of the season after tearing his left Achilles tendon last April. He was back in uniform for just 10 days before fracturing the top of his shinbone in Memphis on Dec. 17.

The Lakers initially thought Bryant could return shortly after six weeks of recovery, but the bone has been slow to heal.

Team trainer Gary Vitti said Bryant has the offseason to heal and the team is looking forwad to him being "100 percent for the start of next season."

Bryant will be 36 years old at the start of next season.

Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni hasn't been expecting Bryant's imminent return, and he knew Kobe couldn't save the injury-ravaged team's lousy campaign. At 22-42, Los Angeles began the day in a three-way tie for last place in the Western Conference with 29 losses in its last 38 games heading into Thursday's trip to Oklahoma City.

The competitive Bryant hasn't enjoyed watching from the bench.

"I feel like killing everybody every time I go to the arena," Bryant said. "I'm just on edge all the time. Yeah, I still feel it, probably more than anybody in the organization does. I probably feel it more, and it drives me absolutely crazy."

Bryant discussed more than his injury in what's likely to be his final public comments for a while. He also used the occasion to ask for "a clear direction" of the Lakers' path through what's certain to be a rocky offseason, mentioning owners Jim and Jeanie Buss by name.

Bryant said he won't be satisfied with another rebuilding year for the Lakers, who are virtually certain to miss the playoffs next month for just the second time in his 18-season career in Los Angeles. Bryant signed a two-year, $48.5 million contract extension earlier this season with the Lakers, absorbing a large chunk of the team's upcoming salary-cap space.

"How can I be satisfied with it?" Bryant asked. "We're like 100 games under .500. I can't be satisfied with that at all. This is not what we stand for. This is not what we play for. A lot of times, it's hard to understand that message if you're not a die-hard Laker fan. It's hard to really understand where we're coming from, what we're used to, what we're accustomed to, which is playing for championships. Everything else is a complete failure. That's just how it is."

Bryant also threw indirect criticism at the Lakers' front office when asked about Phil Jackson's apparent decision to take a front-office job with the New York Knicks. The Lakers flirted with re-hiring the 11-time NBA champion coach early last season before unexpectedly choosing D'Antoni.

"You know how I feel about Phil," Bryant said. "I have so much admiration for him, and respect, and have a great relationship with him. Personally, it would be hard for me to understand that happening twice. It would be tough. I don't really get it."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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