(Reuters) – Hobbled five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant is expected to miss the rest of the season, putting a crowning blow on an abysmal year for the Los Angeles Lakers, according to multiple reports on Wednesday.
Bryant, 35, has not played since Dec. 17 when he fractured his knee during a game against Memphis after having missed the first 19 games of the 2013-14 NBA season recovering from a torn Achilles from last April.
Should Bryant miss the rest of the season, as first reported by Bleacher Report, he would have played six games this season for the Lakers, who have sagged to a 22-42 mark after posting a 45-37 record last season.
The Lakers have 18 games left and stand 15.5 games out of the eighth and last playoff berth in the Western Conference.
Bryant is not accompanying the team on its current trip to Oklahoma City and San Antonio, staying back to be reevaluated by the team doctor, Bleacher Report said.
Sixteen-times NBA All-Star Bryant, so dominant a force on the NBA stage that he was still elected to a place on this season’s All-Star game, which he declined, has averaged 13.8 points and 6.3 assists in his abbreviated action.
Bryant is expected to return to the Lakers next season after having signed a two-year contract extension earlier this season.
(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue)