Kobe Bryant's Body Won't Survive Lakers Brutal Schedule

Ethan NorofCorrespondent IApril 9, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 06:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers receives help from a trainer during a timeout in the game against the Houston Rockets at Staples Center on April 6, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  The Rockets won 112-107.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Kobe Bryant's shin injury forced him to sit out a regular season game on Saturday against the Phoenix Suns for the first time since the 2009-10 campaign.

So what does it mean?

Bryant is hurting. And that's a big admission from a player who plays through almost every ailment imaginable.

The Lakers have just nine games left in the season, and that's not a terribly demanding schedule before the playoffs begin and Bryant will need to be on the floor.

So why can't the "Black Mamba" simply rest until he's ready to return to action? Because his team is in the thick of a very intense battle in the Western Conference for playoff seeding and the Lakers need him on the floor.

But Bryant's shin injury is one that will only heal with extended rest, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles.

Lakers trainer Gary Vitti said Bryant has tenosynovitis, a condition where the tendon sheath in the shin has become inflamed, making Bryant experience irritation when his movement causes his tendon to slide in and out of the sheath.

"He's been playing with this and it's not getting any better," Vitti said. "Really the only way to stop it is to shut him down."

Bryant is wearing a walking boot when he comes in and out of the arena. The latest injury to the superstar is his third major concern this season.

First, it was the torn tendon in his wrist. After that, it was the broken nose and concussion suffered during the All-Star Game that limited what he could put on the floor.

Now? Bryant's shin injury is so painful and bothersome that the player known for playing through anything he possibly can was forced to be a spectator on the sidelines.

In addition to all of the injuries he's endured this season, there is another factor that should be watching as the playoffs draw closer: the amount of time Bryant has spent on the court this season.

Averaging an unbelievable 38.5 minutes per game in his 16th season, Bryant has only played fewer than 30 minutes once this season.

Furthermore, Bryant has played at least 35 minutes in every game since March 1, a disturbing trend for a player who is already logging far too much time on the floor.

The Lakers need Bryant to be at his best at the most vital time of the season, but he'll enter the playoffs at less than 100 percent health.

Will he stay on the court when the playoffs roll around? Absolutely.

Make no doubt about it—as long as he's walking, No. 24 will absolutely be in the starting lineup.

But that doesn't mean he'll be the player the Lakers need him to be in the playoffs.

There have been multiple times this season where we've seen Bryant struggle with his efficiency, and he's certainly prone to another rough stretch if he's not at full health.

Prior to April beginning, Bryant hasn't shot above 46 percent in any month this season, nor has he eclipsed the 30 percent mark from behind the arc.

There is no time to rest for Bryant, who the Lakers need to have on the floor both now and in the postseason.

Unfortunately for both Los Angeles and Bryant, they can't have it both ways.