With Paul George going down with a horrific season ending leg injury and Derrick Rose finally showing signs of returning to his MVP form after two long years of rehab, can Kobe re-establish his dominance from the December 17th knee injury and regain his team leadership?
At 35 years old, Kobe Bryant is coming off a season marred by injury after initially returning from a torn Achilles tendon he suffered in the spring of 2013. Kobe resumed playing in early December and, only 6 games into his comeback, he was diagnosed with a lateral tibial fracture in his left knee. This type of sports injury is very uncommon in NBA athletes and is an extremely difficult recovery for a basketball player because of the pressure of quick cutting, high acceleration, and sudden stopping that the NBA demands.
Dr. Thomas Higgins, a leading tibial plateau fracture specialist at University Orthopedic Center (University of Utah), stated that a tibial plateau fracture is a high-energy trauma, like you would most likely see in an automobile accident.
Kobe elected to go with surgery rather than non-surgical therapy, from which the recovery would be longer. Kobe tried to come back too quickly from the surgery from which Dr. Higgins said often results in arthritis, limited ability to do weight bearing exercises, and can result in re-displacement of the knee. The good news with the injury has been there were no torn ligaments and the extra rehab over the summer should enable a full recovery.
The stresses that the body has to handle through 18 seasons in the NBA are difficult enough and the question that Kobe hasn’t answered is whether his knee can hold up to the rigors of 36 minutes per game. We saw the effects of prolonged minutes where he played 7 consecutives games of over 40 minutes per game before tearing his Achilles tendon. We know that few players have the work ethic that Bryant has displayed throughout his career, but he is fighting age and knees that have given him problems for years. (Kobe has received platelet-rich plasma therapy in Germany in past years for his knee and ankle). I think Kobe has taken a much better approach to this recovery and rehab and he is one of the strongest mentally in the game today.
The Black Mamba enters his 19th season in the NBA with a pretty simple goal: be healthy enough to get on the court and contribute. As one of the most competitive athletes in the NBA, he has to limit his minutes and get strong support from his teammates on both ends of the court.
A key to the Los Angeles Lakers season rests on Kobe’s ability to still be one of the league’s most dominant scorers, to take players off the dribble, and his ability to elevate on his jump shot. On the defensive side, over the last few years Kobe has been the one to cover the opposing team’s best perimeter player and to lead the Lakers’ defensive efforts.
Kobe has the will to return as one of the more dominate players in the NBA, but will his body be up to the challenge of an 82 game season?