UPDATE: Wednesday, March 12 at 2:35 p.m. ET
The Lakers have made the news official that Bryant will miss the remainder of the season, per Mike Trudell of Lakers.com.
---End of update---
LOS ANGELES — The words are about to become official.
Kobe Bryant, out for the season.
The Los Angeles Lakers are expected to declare Bryant out for the rest of the 2013-14 season later this week, according to team sources. Bryant is not accompanying the team on its trip to Oklahoma City and San Antonio, staying back to be reexamined by team doctor Steve Lombardo. And considering where Bryant's level of discomfort remains with the fractured lateral tibial plateau in his left knee, barring an unforeseen change, the team will finalize the decision that Bryant will not play again this season.
After his highly anticipated recovery from his torn left Achilles tendon suffered 11 months ago, Bryant played just six games before hurting his knee Dec. 17. He was encouraged by his performance in that final game, a victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, unaware at the time that what he thought was a hyperextended knee was much more significant.
Although the Lakers' original estimate was that Bryant would miss approximately six weeks, he is now expected to miss the final 17 weeks of the season. He said at the All-Star break he was frustrated by the slow recovery with his knee and noted, "It's not the mind that wears down, it's the body."
Bryant will still be expected to anchor the Lakers next season, when he will be 36. He signed a two-year, $48.5 million extension in November to remain the NBA's highest-paid player and continue through the 2015-16 season, at which time he will consider retirement.
Although he has expressed hope the Lakers will reload this summer via free agency, indications are the team will piece together a roster around him again with an eye toward saving its salary-cap space for a rich 2015 free-agent class.
Will Bryant be his old self next season?
Despite Bryant's limited availability, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said last month that no one should question Bryant's ability to play "at a high level" next season.
Former Lakers coach Phil Jackson said on SiriusXM NBA Radio recently that Bryant will still be a potent scorer when he returns, but not the all-around player he once was.
"I expect he'll be back and will be a vital player," Jackson said. "He is not going to block a shot, take the ball and go coast to coast from baseline to baseline now or rebound and do that quite as much. And so it is going to be a different guy, but he's still going to have scoring capabilities."
The Lakers are 22-42 and have failed to sell out two home games this season, both without Bryant, ending a streak of 320 consecutive home sellouts. Bryant averaged 13.8 points, 6.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds in his six games.
Kevin Ding covers the Lakers for Bleacher Report.