LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kobe Bryant’s torn right rotator cuff will be re-examined Monday before the Los Angeles Lakers decide whether the superstar guard needs potentially season-ending surgery.
Bryant was examined Friday in Los Angeles after the third-leading scorer in NBA history tore his rotator cuff Wednesday in New Orleans.
A completely torn rotator cuff typically requires surgery and several months of rehabilitation, which means Bryant’s 19th NBA season could be over. Bryant’s previous two seasons also ended early due to injuries.
A partial tear sometimes can be managed while an athlete continues to play, but the Lakers have declined to specify the severity of Bryant’s tear.
Yet it’s clear the 36-year-old Bryant has a major injury for the third straight season, his famously resilient body finally wearing down from the accumulated grind of nearly two decades with the Lakers and numerous long postseason runs.
He tore his Achilles tendon in April 2013, and he played in just six games last season before breaking a bone near his left knee.
“He’s one of the toughest guys I’ve ever been around as far as dealing with injuries and things like that, and being able to come back,” coach Byron Scott said after the Lakers’ morning shootaround in San Antonio on Friday. “Everybody said he was done after the Achilles, and he came back pretty strong. Knowing him the way I know him, I know he doesn’t want to go out this way. I think he will rehab it if that’s the case, and then we’ll wait and see.”
Team physician Steve Lombardo confirmed the initial diagnosis and discussed treatment options with Bryant on Friday. Bryant will be examined again by Neal ElAttrache of the Kerlan Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic on Monday, and they’ll decide whether Bryant should have surgery.
Bryant joked about the injury on his Twitter account Friday: “This is what happens when I pass too much!”
Bryant was injured while throwing down a two-handed dunk in the Lakers’ loss to the Pelicans. He traveled home before the Lakers played at San Antonio on Friday night.
Bryant has sat out eight games in the last month to rest, so the struggling Lakers (12-31) have grown used to playing without their top scorer.
Bryant felt shoulder pain at the beginning of the season, but hadn’t mentioned it lately. The Lakers believe Bryant’s torn rotator cuff occurred on the dunk.
“I said, ‘Are you all right?'” Scott recalled. “He was like, ‘Yeah, I’m good, just bothering me a little bit. Once I get warmed up, I’m fine.’ After that point, I never thought about it.”
Although the Lakers rested Bryant extensively this season to preserve the wear on his high-mileage body, Scott still laments playing Kobe for too many minutes in early-season games. Bryant has been on a strict 32-minute limit over the past month.
The Lakers repeatedly have said they’re determined to preserve Bryant’s health into next season, when he is due to make $25 million. Los Angeles has struggled on the court for two straight seasons, but Bryant remains one of the world’s most popular athletes, with his presence essentially guaranteeing a sellout in arenas across North America.
Bryant is the NBA’s highest-paid player at $23.5 million this season.
AP freelancer Raul Dominguez in San Antonio contributed to this report.
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