Sunday night Lakers coach Byron Scott said he was holding out hope Kobe Bryant could still find a way to come back and play this season, even though every medical professional anyone spoke with said he would need surgery to repair his torn rotator cuff — which had detached from the bone — and that would be the end of his season.
Monday, after seeing another specialist, it became official. The Lakers announced Kobe would have surgery on Wednesday. While the team would not provide a recovery timeline until after the operation you can be sure he will not return this season according to every medical professional I consulted. No, not even Kobe. From the official release.
“(Kobe) was examined this morning by Dr. Neal ElAttrache of the Kerlan Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic. Dr. ElAttrache confirmed an earlier diagnosis of a torn rotator cuff, and advised Bryant to have surgery to repair the shoulder. Bryant has agreed, and surgery has been scheduled for Wednesday morning.”
The recovery from this kind of injury usually takes at least four, maybe six months. Either way, Kobe would be back for next season if he wants. And it’s hard to imagine Kobe not wanting to be back.
Hall of Famer and current Rockets coach Kevin McHale provided an interesting perspective on whether Kobe would return next season to play. He said that he played through pain because he didn’t want injuries to force him out, either.
“I wanted to go out playing, and we made it to a playoff series and we lost but I went out playing as hard as I possibly could, I found a little magic in a bottle for a couple weeks and played pretty good, then that was the end of it,” McHale said before his Rockets beat the Lakers Sunday night at Staples. “It’s hard. You’re used to being able to do things, you’re used to your body responding, and if you’re a good player you’re used to your body bouncing back and doing a lot of stuff. You never really thought it could not hold up, but at some point it goes down.”
Kobe is going to want to leave on his own terms. So while his body may require more rest and nights off, that strong will — not to mention the $25 million salary — will almost certainly bring Bryant back for one more year.
In the short term the Lakers will struggle. A lot. Which is not all bad because if they are in the top five of the draft after the lottery this season they get to keep their pick (otherwise it goes to Phoenix as part of the Steve Nash trade, and that pick will go to them next year). The Lakers are currently 12-33, which is the fourth worst record in the league, and it’s hard to imagine them getting past 20 wins now.