Mar 12, 2014, 2:55 PM EDT
We told you this was coming on Tuesday night, but now the Lakers have made it official:
“Obviously this has been a frustrating and disappointing season, 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 in a statement released by the team.
Bryant missed the start of the season as he recovered from an Achilles injury last season. He returned and played in six games before he suffered a fractured lateral tibial plateau in his left knee. That was supposed to keep him out just a couple months, but it has dragged on longer than that.
“With Kobe’s injury still not healed, the amount of time he’d need to rehab and be ready to play, and the amount of time remaining in the season, we’ve simply run out of time for him to return,” long time Lakers trainer Gary Vitti said in a statement. “However, Kobe will have the entire offseason to heal, rehab and prepare, and we look forward to him being 100 percent for the start of next season.”
The Lakers signed Bryant to a two-year, $48 million extension this season despite the injuries. That was a smart business move in this sense — the Lakers are going to be a rebuilding team for at least another season, likely more, and through that the team has to sell the fans something they want to see. That is Kobe. Getting to see him before he retires will fill the expensive courtside seats, the luxury boxes, he will keep the television ratings relatively high and keep the sponsors in the fold.
Who will coach the Lakers, what the roster will look like next season remains to be seen. (Lakers fans, if the roster is going to be bad don’t be shocked to see Mike D’Antoni back at the helm. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.) But Kobe will be the focus.
Like Steve Nash, I hope Kobe does recover all the way and get back. One of the great players ever to lace them up, he deserves to leave the game in a couple years on his terms, not because his body betrayed him.
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