(Photo: Cary Edmondson, USA TODAY Sports)
Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant has a broken bone in his left knee and is expected to miss six weeks, the team announced Thursday afternoon.
Bryant has played six games this season since returning from a torn left Achilles tendon, averaging 13.8 points, 6.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds a game. He twisted his knee during Tuesday's win against the Memphis Grizzlies but told news reporters then that it was stiff.
The team announced the fractured lateral tibial plateau via Twitter.
"You hate it for Kobe," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "He's worked so hard to get back."
The 35-year-old signed a two-year contract extension worth about $48.5 million this season before even coming back from the Achilles injury. But his production has dropped, with the 13.8 points a game being by far his lowest since his rookie season, 1996-97. The 6.3 assists a game would be a career high, though.
Bryant, a shooting guard for his entire career, had played point guard because of injuries to the Lakers' top three at the position: Steve Nash (nerve issues in his back), Steve Blake (torn elbow ligament) and Jordan Farmar (torn hamstring). Swingman Xavier Henry will take over at point guard temporarily.
The Lakers now find themselves with a difficult decision. They hoped to keep afloat with Bryant and backup Henry running the point and to avoid signing a free agent in a weak market.
Henry has not played much point guard in his career and was a career underachiever before the Lakers signed him this offseason. He was drafted 12th overall out of Kansas by the Grizzlies, then traded to the New Orleans Hornets after one season. In two seasons there, he failed to crack the rotation before being allowed to hit unrestricted free agency.
The Lakers signed him to a one-year deal, but he has played well in spurts. In four games since taking over as backup point guard, he has averaged 10.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 23.6 minutes a game.