Should LA Lakers Shut Down Kobe Bryant for Season?

Kobe Bryant’s fractured knee seems to be taking longer to heal than expected. With the Los Angeles Lakers’ season spiraling into the abyss, should management shut him down for the season?

The easy answer is yes—it’s the best way to maximize a two-year contract extension that begins next season.

The obvious problem is: How do you shut down a guy who is so doggedly determined to return, even when the news isn't good? According to the Lakers' official Twitter account, Bryant will be out of action for at least three more weeks. 

The debate isn’t exactly new. Charles Barkley advocated shutting Kobe down on Dec. 19, during a TNT broadcast. Magic Johnson suggested the same in an interview with the Los Angeles Times staff on Jan. 15, stating, “He’s been hurt twice, give him the whole year to get healthy.”

For Bryant, that may be too long. He tore his Achilles tendon on April 12, 2013 and didn’t return until Dec. 8. From that point he played just six games before fracturing his left lateral tibial plateau—the spot where the shinbone meets the knee.

The initial timetable for a return was six weeks. That date will now come and go. Bryant is still limited to pedaling on a stationary bike and will be medically evaluated again in three weeks. 

Bryant is, of course, frustrated; he wants back in. It has been too long, and the time off has been exacerbated by having to sit and watch, night after night, as what’s left of a decimated team heads down the chute.

Per a recent article by Dave McMenamin for ESPN Los Angeles, Bryant continues to shake off the notion of giving up on his season: “To think about sitting out and this, that and the other, your motivation is all wrong. I refuse to think that way."

Nobody should be surprised; this may be the most intensely driven athlete of his generation...

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