Kobe Bryant Injury: Lakers' Star Should Not Rush Back to Start in Season Opener

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistOctober 29, 2012

FRESNO, CA - OCTOBER 07:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers controls the ball against the Golden State Warriors at Save Mart Center At Fresno State on October 7, 2012 in Fresno, California.   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 Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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Kobe Bryant has not missed too many games in his career due to injury. However, this is the perfect time to rest up on the bench.

The star of the Los Angeles Lakers is currently experiencing a lot of pain in his right foot and is officially listed as out indefinitely, according to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne. While many want to see him return in time for Tuesday's season opener, it might not be the right move for him or the team.

Pau Gasol, who will be playing in his fifth full season with the Lakers, did not seem optimistic about a quick return. He told the media (via Dave McMenamin of ESPN): 

I don't know, I have my doubts. I hope we (have him in the lineup). ... He hasn't been able to practice for six days. He's been off that foot for six days and it's no joke. I don't remember the last time that he took that many days off exercising. He might do stuff in the weight room and might do stuff without putting weight on the foot, but it's a little bit concerning.

Gasol might know his teammate about as well as anyone else in the organization by this point. He knows how hard of a worker Bryant is and how strange it is to see him take any days off.

Altogether Bryant missed two exhibition games and a handful of practices. He also missed a few practices earlier in training camp with an injury to the same foot, although this injury is "in a different place on his right foot and is considerably more painful," according to Shelburne's report .

With already two separate injuries to the same area, it seems like something that could linger if not treated properly. Even if the veteran is able to play through the injury, there is a very good chance it will cause further damage.

Fortunately, the Lakers do not need the guard on the court to be successful, at least not yet. Although the squad went 0-8 in the preseason, the starting lineup features four other highly accomplished players with 16 combined All-NBA Team selections. 

Additionally, the team plays nine of its first 11 games at home, where it won 79 percent of games last season. This squad should be able to take care of business without Bryant.

Even if the Lakers lose a few games during the star's absence, there is plenty of time during an 82-game season to make up for it. The only season goal is to reach the playoffs. After that is when the real challenge begins.

Another problem that usually occurs with an injury to a popular player is the fan reaction. The paying customers want to see the future Hall of Fame player and would ordinarily watch fewer games without him in the lineup. 

In this case, however, there is plenty to keep fans distracted. The new additions of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash have generated a lot of excitement in Los Angeles and most will tune in just to see this duo perform. Kobe will be forgotten for awhile if this group shows it can win without him.

There is no question that the Lakers will need a healthy Kobe Bryant to have a successful season. He was the second-leading scorer in the NBA last season and his points will not be easy to replace. He is also the veteran leader of the team and is a proven winner with five career NBA Championships.

Still, this is a long season. Bryant will be needed for the stretch run and the playoffs, not the first few games of the year. 

The 14-time All-NBA guard should sit for at least the first few games and wait until he is 100 percent before suiting up for the team. After all these years, no one will think less of him.