- Dave McMenamin, ESPN Staff Writer
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LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Lakers announced Friday that Kobe Bryant recently had arthroscopic surgery performed on his right knee. The surgery was performed last week and deemed to be a success. Bryant is in the midst of rehab, and a full recovery is expected in time for the Lakers' training camp, which is set to begin on Sept. 25.
It is the third time Bryant has had the knee surgically repaired. It was first done in the summer of 2003, and then in the summer of 2006, causing him to miss the FIBA World Championships in Japan as a member of USA Basketball.
Bryant sat out of four of the Lakers' final five regular-season games last season because of the knee. He struggled mightily at the start of the playoffs before having the knee drained prior to Game 5 of the first round against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Bryant averaged 24 points on 38.3 percent shooting in Games 1-4 against the Thunder and improved dramatically through the rest of the Lakers' title run, averaging 30.3 points on 47.3 percent shooting, after having, as he later described it, "that nasty stuff sucked out of my knee."
Bryant dismissed the possibility that the injury could be career-threatening after the Lakers' NBA Finals Game 7 win against the Boston Celtics.
"It's just an injury, and that's what drove me nuts and made this even sweeter was everybody kept talking about, he's old, he's old," Bryant said. "I was hurt. I drained my knee, and all of a sudden reeling off 30-point games like they're 10-point games and everybody said how young I looked. I was hurt."
Nearly a week later, following his exit interview with the Lakers front office, Bryant again downplayed the knee as being an issue he would have to address in the offseason. Instead Bryant pointed to his right index finger, which he fractured in December and had developed arthritis in the knuckles, as something that could merit surgical correction.
"The finger [was the problem]," Bryant said. "The knee was fine. Once we drained the knee it was fine or fine enough. The finger, though, was a constant problem. It was always around. I had to take the wrap around my entire finger and the hard splint underneath it so feeling the basketball was really tough. It was always a constant battle to adjust to it."
The Lakers haven't indicated if Bryant will have surgery on the finger.
Bryant is finally starting to show signs of slowing down after playing more than 1,200 games and 45,000 minutes in the regular season and postseason combined in his 14-year career. Bryant sat out nine games last season because of his knee, finger and left ankle injuries, ending his consecutive games played streak at 235 in February, which was the fifth-longest streak among current NBA players at the time.
Knee surgery is causing Bryant to miss out on international competition again, as USA Basketball held tryouts this week in preparation for the 2010 FIBA World Championships in Turkey without him.
"Kobe needs to rest," said Lakers teammate Lamar Odom, who is expected to make the USA team.
Bryant was appreciative of USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo's understanding of his situation when speaking at his summer basketball camp in Santa Barbara, Calif., two weeks ago.
"Having the summer off from USA Basketball, Mr. Colangelo was very understanding about my situation and I greatly appreciate that, that gives me more time to make sure I'm completely ready to go [next season]," Bryant said.
Bryant isn't the only Lakers player to go under the knife this offseason. Starting center Andrew Bynum is scheduled to have surgery on his right knee on July 28 in New York.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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