Longtime Lakers trainer Gary Vitti told reporters, including Arash Markazi of ESPN.com, that Kobe Bryant has suffered a torn left Achilles tendon and will be out for six to nine months (Twitter link). Bryant suffered the injury late in the fourth quarter of last night's win over the Warriors. He stayed in the game to take a pair of free throws, making them both, before limping off. It's a third-degree rupture, meaning the tendon is completely torn, Vitti said, as Eric Pincus and Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times note (Twitter links). Bryant's surgery is set for later today, tweets Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
Vitti told McMenamin and others that the plan is for Bryant to be ready for the 2013/14 season opener, though that would represent the early side of the timetable (Twitter link). A doctor who's unaffiliated with the team told Sean Deveney of The Sporting News that Kobe Bryant could be back in time for the start of next season, but it's more likely recovery will take nine to 12 months. Another doctor tells Deveney that Bryant will never regain 100% of his athletic ability.
Vitti vehemently dismissed the notion that Bryant's heavy minutes of late contributed to the injury, according to Pincus (Twitter link). Tim Grover, Bryant's personal trainer, agrees, telling Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com that he'd be "shocked" if the increased playing time led to the tear (Twitter link). Coach Mike D'Antoni nonetheless absorbed blame in response to a question last night from Brian Kamenetzky of SheridanHoops.com.
"Yeah, definitely. It's my call at the very end, so if he gets hurt, then (I feel responsible)," D'Antoni said. "But I'm not going to sit here and go, 'Maybe he wouldn't have gotten hurt if (he played less).' You don't know. You've got to go forward, and we made decisions collectively and tried to make the best ones we can. Right now, that's not turning out to be great. But it might not have been good, anyway. If you're a couple games out and not making the playoffs, then he can rest all summer. We'll go back and forth, but I don't know, hypotheticals — we can talk about it, but it's not going to help any."
There's been speculation, from Grantland's Bill Simmons and others, that the Lakers could waive Bryant via the amnesty clause this summer, as he's set to make $30.454MM next season, the highest salary in the league. That's not likely, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, who points out that the Lakers would lose Bryant's Bird rights if they did so (Twitter link). Thus, the move would only come in handy if the Lakers are certain they'd have enough cap space in 2014 to re-sign him, as Stein argues via Twitter. However, Steve Nash is currently the only commitment the Lakers have beyond next season, so the team probably wouldn't have trouble fitting Bryant back under the cap if need be.
Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said amnestying Bryant is "the furthest thing from our minds," Shelburne tweets.