Los Angeles Lakers icon Kobe Bryant told NBA fans not to vote him as a starter for this February's NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans. A week after officially getting a spot in the lineup, it appears he will get his wish and see another player replace him.
As announced by the Lakers on Tuesday night, Kobe will be reevaluated in another three weeks after experiencing continued swelling in his left knee:
INJURY UPDATE: Kobe Bryant was examined tonight & still has pain and swelling in his left knee. Examined again in approximately 3 weeks.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) January 29, 2014
Bryant will continue with a program of non-weight bearing exercise, consisting mostly of working out on a stationary bike. — Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) January 29, 2014
Bryant was diagnosed with a knee a fracture in mid-December and was initially ruled out for six weeks. This injury followed his return from the Achilles tendon tear that forced a 7 1/2-month recovery and has allowed him to play in only six games for the Lakers this season. While there was hope that Bryant could return to help his floundering teammates, it appears that he will need more time on the sidelines.
While his absence from All-Star Game on February 16 has not been announced officially, this three-week estimate will take Kobe to February 18, or one day before the Lakers' return from the All-Star Break against the Houston Rockets at Staples Center. As noted by Yahoo's own Marc Spears on Twitter, it figures that the NBA will replace him in the West's starting lineup. Candidates to join Stephen Curry in the backcourt include James Harden, Damian Lillard, Tony Parker, and Los Angeles Clippers star Chris Paul, who began his career with the New Orleans Hornets and is currently working his way back from his own injury that may keep him out of the festivities.
This news most clearly affects Kobe's All-Star status, but it's possible that it will have a greater impact on the Lakers season. With a record of just 16-30 after Tuesday night's loss to the NBA-best Indiana Pacers and in the midst of a 3-17 stretch, the Lakers don't figure to get much better over the next few weeks. Their season has become about planning for the future, both in terms of figuring out who on the roster can help long-term and draft position. Bryant is a fierce competitor, but he's also smart enough to know that he can only help this team so much this season. With limited years left and injury a concern, it's unclear how much returning to the Lakers will mean, in terms of tangible benefits to the franchise's win-loss record.
These concerns go far beyond the Lakers keeping Kobe as a tanking tactic, because this knee injury could limit Kobe in future seasons, too. We expect Bryant to return as soon as his body allows him, but we also know much less than ever about what his physical limits actually are. The three-week wait to learn more about his health could very well turn into something much longer.
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