LOS ANGELES (AP) - Kobe Bryant is expected to miss about six weeks with an injured left knee, dealing the second major injury setback of the year to the Los Angeles Lakers' superstar guard.
An MRI exam on Thursday revealed Bryant has a fracture in his lateral tibial plateau - the top of his shinbone near his knee.
Bryant made his season debut with the Lakers (12-13) on Dec. 8 after nearly eight months away while recovering from a torn Achilles tendon. He apparently was hurt again Tuesday in a 96-92 win at Memphis while playing his fourth game in five nights.
After playing six games in 10 days, the fourth-leading scorer in NBA history is out again until February or longer - and the Lakers' already miserable run of injuries got even uglier as they prepare to host Minnesota (13-13) on Friday night.
'You hate it for Kobe,' Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni told reporters after practice Thursday. 'He's worked so hard to get back, but he'll be back. He'll be back in six weeks. We've just got to weather the storm until he gets back.'
The Lakers also announced Steve Nash will be out for at least four more weeks with nerve root irritation, leaving injury-riddled Los Angeles without its top three point guards and Bryant - who filled in at the point in recent games - for at least another week.
The Lakers signed point guard Kendall Marshall, a lottery pick by Phoenix in 2012, out of the D-League on Friday.
On Thursday afternoon, a tweet was posted on Bryant's official Twitter account that consisted solely of the hashtag: BrokenNotBeaten.
'I think he'll be back in six weeks, and he'll be hunting for some bear,' D'Antoni said.
The rest of the Lakers found out about Bryant's injury after practice.
'It's hard to get this type of news, especially when we've got already so many injuries, when we've been through so many injuries the year before,' Pau Gasol said. 'It just keeps piling up. It's not the best thing for us, for sure, but we've just got to continue to go forward. We understand it can happen.'
D'Antoni immediately faced questions about whether the Lakers allowed Bryant to return too quickly from the torn Achilles tendon.
Bryant pushed himself to return to the Lakers quickly, but his left leg appeared to be visibly smaller than his right leg after months of inactivity and atrophy. D'Antoni and the Lakers' top brass often joke about their inability to control Bryant's relentless determination to play, even at the risk of his own health.
'It could happen at any time,' D'Antoni said of Bryant's latest injury. 'That's part of it. There's always going to be a risk until he gets used to playing, but the doctors are all over it. That's just bad luck.'
Bryant matched his season high with 21 points Tuesday, but he went to the floor with 3:25 left in the third quarter. He stayed down briefly before standing up, and Bryant bent over at the waist as he flexed his left leg back and forth. He walked to the bench with trainer Gary Vitti, but returned to the floor following the timeout.
He hit a deep 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter to help clinch the win, Los Angeles' second in six games since his return, and played more than 32 minutes. Bryant said after the game that he twisted his knee, but it felt all right.
'I just hyperextended it,' Bryant said when asked to describe what happened on the play. 'I tend to hyperextend my knees every now and then.'
Without Bryant on Nov. 10, the Lakers saw their 22-game run against the Timberwolves come to an end with a 113-90 home loss. It was the longest active winning streak between two NBA opponents, and Bryant had played in all but one of those victories.
Kevin Love had 25 points and 13 rebounds in last month's meeting and Kevin Martin scored 27 for Minnesota.
Love scored 29 points, grabbed 15 boards and handed out nine assists Wednesday as the Timberwolves beat Portland 120-109 for their fourth win in six games.
"Awesome," Wolves point guard Ricky Rubio said about Love. 'There's no words to describe. He's doing a great job leading this team in scoring, rebounding, even assisting. He's taking my job.'
Nikola Pekovic had a season-high 30 points and added nine rebounds, while Martin scored 22.
The Associated Press News Service
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