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Kobe Bryant's Latest Injury Dims Lakers' Playoff Hopes

Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant needed 7 1/2 arduous months to return from an Achilles tear, seemingly making it back in time to save a Lakers team that was left to battle the elements without injured guard Steve Nash and with Pau Gasol hobbling and inconsistent. The Lakers, faced with a tough road schedule, have dropped four of six with Bryant in the lineup, and they're likely to be dropping quite a few more from now until February. Bryant complained of left knee stiffness after an awkward move sent him tumbling during Tuesday's Laker win over the Memphis Grizzlies. Two days later, we know the final diagnosis: Kobe will be out six weeks with a left knee injury in a move that could doom the Lakers' postseason hopes. Though Bryant (who recently signed a two-year, $48.5 million contract extension) has struggled mightily in his return from the Achilles tear in his left leg -- averaging 13.6 points through 12.2 shots a game, counting nearly as many turnovers (5.7) as assists (6.3) -- it was assumed that Bryant at some point would roll back into near-All-Star form as winter moved along. Now that's taken away, along with the needed in-game rehab that Kobe will have to work through when he returns in a month and a half. If the six weeks mark is on point, the Lakers should expect Bryant back with 35 games left in the season. That's a hefty chunk of time to right the ship, but though the Lakers have surprised so far this year in cobbling together a 12-13 record, this cannot go on forever. Not only is Nash out and Gasol ailing, but both Jordan Farmar and Steve Blake are out with significant injuries, setbacks that forced the Lakers to go with Bryant in their point-guard-intensive fast-paced offense. Now Xavier Henry and Jodie Meeks, players who boast the worst and third-worst assist percentage on the team (seriously, the team's big men and noted chucker Nick Young all have better marks) will take over at point guard. All with Gasol and center Chris Kaman frustrated

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