Bryant Out for Season as Lakers Seek Lock on NBA Playoff Berth

Kobe Bryant will be absent tonight when the Los Angeles Lakers face the San Antonio Spurs, seeking a win to move closer to the eighth and final playoff berth in the National Basketball Association’s Western Conference.

Bryant, 34, who is averaging 27.3 points per game, had surgery yesterday to repair a torn left Achilles tendon. He is expected to be out six to nine months, Lakers’ head athletic trainer Gary Vitti told reporters.

“Third-degree rupture,” Vitti said after looking at the MRI. “It’s gone. It has to be sewn back together. He’ll be immobilized for quite a while -- a month or more. Then like anything else, he’ll start working on strength and range of motion. This isn’t something you want to speed up or accelerate.”

Bryant fell to the ground when he pushed off toward the hoop late in the Lakers 118-116 win over Golden State. He hit two tying free throws with three minutes, eight seconds to play before he left the court April 12.

“Kobe showed some tremendous guts out there hitting the two free throws that kept us in the game, and eventually we won the game,” Vitti said. “I think it’s a big inspiration to our players and we’re ready to play the next two games.”

The Lakers (43-37) hold the eighth spot in the conference playoffs with the Utah Jazz (42-38) only one game back. After tonight’s game against the Spurs (58-21), the Lakers finish the season hosting the Houston Rockets on April 17. The Jazz are at the Minnesota Timberwolves tomorrow and visit the Memphis Grizzlies on April 17.

Vitti said Bryant’s injury added to a season that has been “a nightmare.”

Steve Nash broke his leg, Steve Blake had abdominal surgery, Jordan Hill needed hip surgery, Metta World Peace underwent knee surgery, Dwight Howard had a labrum tear in his shoulder, and Antawn Jamison will have wrist surgery after the season, Vitti said.

“When you try to look at the ’whys,’ it’s bad luck,” Vitti said.

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