Kobe Bryant out 3 weeks or more

Kobe Bryant

LOS ANGELES -- Lakers guard Kobe Bryant was examined by team physician Dr. Steve Lombardo on Friday, and it was determined the 18-year veteran will be sidelined another three weeks before being re-evaluated because of continued pain, swelling and soreness in his injured left knee.

Bryant, 35, has been sidelined since Dec. 17 with a fracture of the lateral tibial plateau in the knee.

He is averaging 13.8 points, 6.3 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 42.5 percent shooting in six games this season, but has missed the Lakers' last 30 games. He missed the Lakers' first 19 games this season because of a torn Achilles in his left leg.

Missing three more weeks before another evaluation brings the calendar to March 14, at which point there will be only 17 games left in the regular season for the Lakers. And even if Bryant is cleared for contact drills at that point, he would assuredly need some additional practice time before he could make a return.

Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni was asked if Bryant would return at all this season after the Lakers' 101-92 win Friday night over the Celtics.

"I don't know," D'Antoni said. "That's out of my hands. We'll see. I have no answer to that one."

Teammate Pau Gasol simply offered his support.

"I know it's tough for him and it's been a very tough year for him," Gasol said. "I just hope that he gets healthy. If it takes a little longer, it takes a little longer. If that means he might not play this season, I'm sure he'll stay positive and look ahead. So, the main thing is he's got to be healthy."

He also said that Bryant has done an admirable job of dealing with the injury.

"It's something new for him but I think so far he's been handling it well," Gasol said. "He's trying to keep himself in shape and work as much as he can so that if he gets the opportunity to get back, to be able to play again."

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak made it clear prior to the re-examination, which was done at halftime of the Lakers' win, that the Lakers want Bryant back at 100 percent before he returns to the lineup this season.

"We're not going to push him to get back," Kupchak said. "I don't see why you would. We've made a commitment to him for two more years, and I just don't know why we'd do that [push him to come back]. But if he feels he's ready and he's in shape and he gets the doctor's approval, then there's no reason why he couldn't do that."

L.A. signed Bryant to a two-year, $48.5 million contract extension in November.

The five-time NBA champion called his recovery "a slow process" during a news conference held in New Orleans during All-Star Weekend.

"Just try to get better and then go from there," he said when asked of his hopes for playing. "I just try to focus, keep my blinders on and just do what I have to do and not worry too much about what's going on around you, but just stay focused on what my responsibilities are."

Lombardo also examined injured Lakers guard Nick Young (non-displaced fracture of the patella and a bone bruise in his left knee ) and Xavier Henry (bone bruise in his right knee) on Friday.

Young, who has missed the Lakers' last six games, was cleared to play Sunday against the Brooklyn Nets.

"Nick does give us that X-factor that he can get a shot up at the end of a shot clock that we can't seem to generate a shot and Nick needs to come back and play well for the last 28 games,"  D'Antoni said of Young, who can opt out of his $1.2 million contract with the Lakers for next season and become a free agent July 1. "They're all playing for something and he needs to have a good run."

Henry, out since Dec. 29, was cleared to return to practice but still cannot participate in 5-on-5 contact drills.

"He's close," D'Antoni said. "He's anxious to play, that's for sure."

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