Lakers’ Kobe Bryant rehabilitating from knee surgery


The right knee that bothered Kobe Bryant last season finally went in for some service.

Bryant had arthroscopic surgery last week on the knee, the Lakers announced Friday. The knee bothered Bryant so much in April that he sat out a handful of regular-season games, and it was eventually drained near the end of the Lakers’ first-round playoff series against Oklahoma City.

Bryant is rehabilitating the knee and is expected to return in time for training camp, which opens Sept. 25 in El Segundo.

Even the most basic details of the procedure were difficult to track down, with Lakers officials referring all questions to Bryant’s agent, Rob Pelinka, who did not return a phone call seeking further information such as the exact date of the surgery, where it was done and who performed it.

The procedure was believed to have been done in Los Angeles and included the removal of some loose bodies in the knee. It was termed a success in a brief release sent out by the team.

Bryant’s right knee has now undergone at least three arthroscopic operations — in 2003, in 2006 and again last week.

It was unclear whether Bryant would also have surgery on his right index finger or left ankle, both of which irritated him during the season.

“We have not really discussed it in great depth with Kobe,” General Manager Mitch Kupchak said earlier Friday, before the team sent out the release. “I know he is looking at things that he may want to do. Kobe kind of runs his medical stuff on his own a little bit. I know he’s in touch with… [trainer] Gary [Vitti].”

Kupchak looked entirely relaxed as he sat back and spoke to the media before heading to Las Vegas to see his son play in a basketball tournament.

Whatever tension Kupchak felt this month — Will Derek Fisher be back? What about Shannon Brown? And how can the Lakers fit more players onto a payroll that was already the highest in the NBA? — seemed to have dissipated.

It helps that the Lakers turned a relatively thin bench into a veteran-laden one that will cost only a few million more than last season’s payroll, if that.

Adam Morrison, DJ Mbenga, Josh Powell and Jordan Farmar are gone, their $9.1 million in salary last season replaced by free agents Matt Barnes, Steve Blake and Theo Ratliff, a string of 30-something veterans who represent $7.1 million toward next season’s payroll.

“We are pleased,” Kupchak said. “We think we have a balanced team.”

Kupchak was also optimistic that the Lakers would re-sign Brown, who opted out of a contract that would have paid him $2.15 million next season.

“We’re still talking to Shannon,” Kupchak said. “I think there’s a good chance that in the next couple of weeks we can have some resolution with Shannon. I’m optimistic.”

Adding Barnes with a two-year deal for $3.8 million was another piece to a free-agent puzzle that didn’t seem likely until a two-year, $9-million deal with Toronto fell apart this week.

“Matt Barnes was not something we planned on a few weeks ago,” Kupchak said. “I’m not quite sure even he knew where he’d end up, but it came about quickly. With Luke Walton’s health issues, we felt adding a player like that would give us great insurance at that position. We feel fortunate to add him at the last minute.”

Walton played only 45 games last season, including playoffs, because of recurring back issues and might miss next season, Kupchak said.

“It’s a possibility,” he said. “The most important thing is that Luke makes the best decision for his life, not basketball. I played and Phil [Jackson] played and neither one of us really walk well. We don’t ever want guys to play where you end up walking with a limp, bad shoulder or bad hip.”

As a last resort, Walton would have back surgery that could force him out of next season.

Kupchak has begun contract negotiations with second-round selections Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter, who played relatively well on the Lakers’ summer league team but don’t have guaranteed contracts yet.

“We like our two rookies in summer league, but that doesn’t mean anything,” Kupchak said. “I think they did play better than what their draft position indicated, but in summer league, most of those guys are not going to be in the NBA.”

The Lakers currently have 11 players under contract for $92.4 million, eclipsing last season’s payroll of $91.3 million in an off-season where finances were supposed to be an issue.

Here for a while

Fisher said Friday he planned to play all three years of his new contract in his first meeting with reporters since signing a $10.5-million deal last week to stay with the Lakers.

“I didn’t sign a three-year contract by accident,” he said, adding that he would “fully expect” to play thru 2012-13.

While conducting his summer basketball camp in Hawthorne, Fisher didn’t seem overly concerned with the new-look Miami Heat, the favorite to win the championship in the eyes of Las Vegas oddsmakers.

“That’s fine,” Fisher said. “That doesn’t change [anything] with us.”

Times staff writer Broderick Turner contributed to this report.

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