Lakers prepare for possibility that Kobe Bryant is out for season

Lakers prepare for possibility that Kobe Bryant is out for season
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant warms up before a mid-January contest against the Miami Heat. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The Lakers are preparing for the worst-case scenario of Kobe Bryant missing the rest of the season, a decision to be determined Monday.

Bryant consulted with team doctor Steve Lombardo on Friday and discussed the possibility of season-ending surgery on a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder.


Bryant will meet with sports-medicine specialist Neal ElAttrache on Monday, a second opinion as Lakers Coach Byron Scott put it, and perhaps a last-ditch effort to avoid going under the knife.

"It doesn't look good," said a person familiar with the situation.

Scott added, "Yeah, I'm worried. I think we all are in the organization."

Surgery for Bryant would mean a third consecutive time he couldn't finish a season. He was felled by a torn Achilles' tendon in April 2013 and a broken bone in his knee last season.

The 2014-15 book would close on him after only 35 games, with averages of 22.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists, as well as a career-worst 37.2% shooting accuracy.

Bryant played 37.1 minutes a game in November before becoming a part-time player last month, sitting out eight of 16 games so he could rest. He was also limited to 32 minutes a game in recent weeks.

"I don't know if the wear and tear of playing so many minutes early is a result of what's happened to him right now," Scott said Friday before the Lakers lost to San Antonio, 99-85, their seventh consecutive loss. "I thought about that. It made me almost sick. I even apologized to him in a text [Thursday]. His response was, 'No, that wasn't it.'

"He, I guess, tried to make me feel better. You can't help from a coaching perspective to feel that way a little bit. You've got to think about, man, if I wouldn't have used him so much earlier in the season, maybe this doesn't happen. But then again, maybe it happens later. I don't know."

Bryant complained about a sore shoulder a month and a half ago, Scott said. He aggravated it on a third-quarter dunk Wednesday against New Orleans and an MRI exam Thursday revealed a tear, though Bryant jokingly blamed passing the ball for his predicament. He had a career-high 17 assists last week against Cleveland.

"This is what happens when I pass too much! #ShoulderShock," Bryant wrote on Twitter, adding thanks for thoughts and prayers from well-wishers.

Said Scott, with a laugh: "Good, he didn't blame it on coach playing him too much."

Phil Jackson said to Bryant on Twitter: "At least you haven't lost your sense of humor-pass the Mustard."

Scott predicted a successful return for Bryant if there was surgery and rehabilitation. Bryant, 36, makes $23.5 million this season and is under contract for $25 million next season.

"I know he doesn't want to go out this way," Scott said. "I think he'll rehab it, if that's the case. Then we'll have to wait and see."


Late Friday night, almost 3,000 people had voted in an informal poll asking whether Bryant should retire, with 75% saying yes.

The Lakers are 2-7 without him, a lowly .222 winning percentage. They are only marginally better with him in the lineup, showing a 10-25 record and 28.6% success rate.

Nick Young would presumably become the Lakers' most capable scorer, though he was shooting only 31.5% this month coming into Friday's game. He had 17 points on five-for-11 shooting against the Spurs.

Scott didn't entirely shut the door on Bryant returning this season. He could conceivably play with a tear if the pain wasn't too harsh, though he might need to miss some games while inflammation decreased in the shoulder.

"If there's a chance that he can play, he'll play. Then I think it comes down to us trying to figure out if he should or not," Scott said. "But we're getting a little bit ahead of ourselves right now."

If Bryant's season were to end, there was a touch of nostalgia from a coach who tried to stop him year after year after year.

"I can think of a lot of shots Kobe's made that's just basically knocked us out," San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich said. "In an odd, weird sort of way, I still enjoy it. When you see a talent like that, when they don't play anymore, then you say, 'Wow, I got to see so-and-so play.' And he's one of those kind of guys."

Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan