Bryant is set to miss the final two games of the preseason, according to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne and Dave McMenamin. The report also states that Bryant may not be ready for Tuesday night's season opener against the Mavericks.
Lakers coach Mike Brown said this about his star's injury:
I don't know if he'll be ready. So yeah, I guess there is question. I'm just going to wait for [Lakers trainer] Gary Vitti to tell me he can play, because there's nothing I can do about it until they release him anyway.
Shelburne and McNenamin mention that the injury is just a strain. That's not normally a serious injury, especially for someone with Bryant's toughness, but his age will make a difference moving forward.
The Lakers are one of this year's favorites, but the margin for error is not large. One injury could change everything, and Bryant is the worst-case scenario. Dwight Howard might be the offseason's prized possession, but the Lakers cannot replace Mamba's leadership, experience or perimeter scoring.
Bryant has played in 70-plus games 10 times in his career, and he's never played less than 60 games in a full regular season. He's been incredibly durable, and that hasn't slowed down as he's gotten older, but sooner or later something has to give. He's put miles and miles on his legs and, believe it or not, he's human.
The report says that Bryant "told reporters Tuesday that he was experiencing a lot of pain from the injury and doubted he would play in Wednesday's game, even if it was a regular-season contest." For an icon to admit that, you know it's true.
A major injury would be more of a concern at this point, but this can't be discounted. With age comes brittleness. Recovery becomes more difficult, and a reoccurring ailment becomes more likely.
Bryant isn't the same player he once was, but an injury to him that could impact the season would be devastating to the Lakers' title hopes.
Short-term recovery sounds likely, but this injury should be in the back of everyone's mind as the early part of the Lakers' schedule gets underway.