Kobe Bryant reportedly suffered a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder in the Lakers’ 96-80 loss to the Pelicans on Wednesday, an injury that puts the rest of his season – and possibly his career – in jeopardy.

Bryant, 36, is averaging 22.3 points, 5.6 assists and 5.7 rebounds in 35 games this season. The Lakers (12-31) are the second-worst team in the Western Conference and the fourth-worst team in the NBA.

When might we see Kobe in action again?

“I don’t expect to see him at any point the rest of the way,” Sports Illustrated senior NBA writer Chris Mannix said on Gio and Jones. “There has not been a determination, to my knowledge, on surgery. But even if there’s no surgery, it makes no sense to rush him back and risk further injury.”

According to reports, the Lakers organization believes Bryant’s shoulder will require surgery, which would effectively end his season. Bryant, who had been dealing with shoulder issues since the preseason, appeared to aggravate the injury while attempting a dunk in the third quarter against the Pelicans.

“Patty Mills, the Spurs guard, had a similar injury back in July,” Mannix reminded listeners. “He was out for about five months. If Kobe does that, his season is certainly over. And I don’t think the Lakers have a need to bring him back because, frankly, they don’t care about winning games. They’re looking to get in that top five, to keep the top-five pick. Otherwise they’ll have to transfer it to Phoenix. Why play Kobe right now? So I think his season is over.”

One must wonder how this latest injury will affect Bryant’s career. He played in just six games last season due to knee and Achilles injuries and will wind up missing more than half of this season.

Any chance Bryant calls it a day and strolls off into the sunset?

No way, no how.

“As far as his career, I just can’t see Kobe Bryant going out like this,” Mannix said. “Kobe knows there’s a limited amount of time left in his career. It might only be one year, but I don’t see him limping off the floor – body battered, shoulder in disrepair – and that being the lasting image of him. I think we’ll see at least one more good year out of him on the floor.”

Bryant was named a Western Conference All-Star starter Thursday night for the 17th consecutive year, but he will obviously be replaced due to the injury.

The Lakers have lost six straight games and eight of nine. They rank 18th in the league in scoring offense (99.9 points per game), 29th in scoring defense (106.5), 15th in rebounds per game (43.0) and 22nd in assists (20.6).

Without Bryant, Los Angeles’ leading scorers are Nick Young (14.5 points per game), Jordan Hill (12.4), Carlos Boozer (12.2) and Jeremy Lin (10.5).

Bryant has missed at least 24 games in three of the last four years. He hasn’t played 82 games since the 2010-11 season.


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