It is hard to judge just how much Kobe Bryant is hurting.
It’s because he doesn’t give in to his body, he just keeps pushing through the pain. He keeps playing, keeps pressing forward and pushing his team with a Terminator like will. He can be slowed by pain, he may miss shots with a broken finger, but he does not stop. Ever.
But Kobe’s right knee — the one he had surgery on this past summer for a third time in his 15 seasons — is bad and that is why he has been sitting out team practices this year, he told Peter Vecsey of the New York Post.
“Because I have very little cartilage under my right knee cap, it’s almost bone on bone…
“You know how competitive and combative I am on the court,” he said. “There’s nothing I like better than to practice. In fact, I like practice more than the games, because I get to go at my teammates hard. That’s when you find out what they’re made of, how much you can push some to get the most out of ’em, and how you have to back off others so you don’t lose ’em…
“So, in order to protect my knee and avoid a situation like last year (where he had to have his knee drained of fluid during the playoffs), we decided before the season to sacrifice the team’s intensity by minimizing wear and tear as much as possible.”
After the ugly string of Lakers games around Christmas, Kobe scrapped that plan and has come back to practice to pick up the intensity. He also has picked up the intensity of therapy on his knee so he can get through all this.
We’ve seen what bone-on-bone knee pain has done to Brandon Roy. It should make Lakers fans — and just fans of basketball — take a step back and really appreciate what Bryant does on the court right now. Because at some point soon he will not be able to push past the knee pain any more, the elevation won’t be quite the same on the jump shot, the explosion heading to the rim will be missing.
Kobe will adjust and still be effective. He already has started to, moving more into the post for his offense. But that will be a slightly different Kobe. We should appreciate the one we have now.