MANILA, Philippines – Injured Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant doubts he can return to peak form in time for the 2014 All-Star Game and is instead urging NBA fans to vote for younger players, such as Portland guard Damian Lillard.
Bryant, a 15-time All-Star, is the second-leading vote-getter in the Western Conference. But he suffered a fractured left tibial plateau in a game against the Memphis Grizzlies last December 17, which will cause him to miss at least six weeks.
If he follows the timetable, Bryant will only have been playing one or two weeks by the time the All-Star Game rolls around on February 16 in New Orleans.
“I probably won’t be able to come back soon enough to put my stamp or make my mark on the game,” said Bryant, a four-time All-Star Game MVP, in an ESPN interview. “My advice would be to focus on these younger players, the Damian Lillards of the world, because they’re more than deserving to be playing on that weekend.” [http://espn.go.com/los-angeles/nba/story/_/id/10248816/kobe-bryant-flattered-all-star-votes-touts-young-players]
Portland’s Lillard is the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year and has helped lead the Trail Blazers to a 26-8 record, tied for second best in the West.
“I really enjoy watching what the younger guys are doing and how they’re performing,” Bryant said. “Even though there’s so much respect from me to be able to go out there and play for the fans, I’d much rather see the young guys play in the game because they’ve obviously put the work in to be in it.”
“I’d much rather go out there and see them participate,” he added.
Bryant played in only six games this season. He returned to action last December after suffering an Achilles tendon injury in April, but soon injured his left knee.
“I’m pretty restricted in terms of what I can do, just staying on the (stationary) bike,” Bryant told the Los Angeles Times. “I’m focusing on staying in shape.”
Bryant said the time off is also helping the recovery of his torn Achilles.
“It helps. You get a chance to get the Achilles even stronger and rest even more where it’s not a concern whatsoever,” he added.
The Lakers currently have a 14-20 record, 13th in the Western Conference.