Kobe won't play for USA after knee surgery
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Kobe Bryant had minor surgery on his right knee Saturday and is highly unlikely to play for the United States in the world championships this summer.
Los Angeles Lakers
The announcement Saturday that the U.S. team will be without the NBA's leading scorer comes just five days before the Americans open their training camp in Las Vegas.
USA Basketball said Bryant will still attend part of the camp and will travel with the team in Asia for training in exhibitions in China and South Korea, and the world championships in Japan.
But full recovery from the procedure normally takes eight to 12 weeks, leaving it doubtful Bryant will be available for any of the world championships, which run from Aug. 19-Sept. 3.
The U.S. has to choose its 12-man roster for the worlds before competition starts, and it can't be changed.
"We trust that Kobe will have a total and speedy recovery, and we were pleased that he expressed a willingness to remain as involved with our team as possible through this process," USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said in a statement. "Kobe being with the team will add to our team chemistry and his presence will help provide valuable off court leadership."
If Bryant is out 12 weeks, he could miss the beginning of Lakers training camp in October.
"It's our understanding that it's pretty minor, typical arthroscopic surgery to clean up some scar tissue," Lakers spokesman John Black told the Los Angeles Times. "He misses maybe the start of training camp, but as you're aware, Kobe is probably in the best condition of anybody in the league, which shouldn't set him back.
"Nobody in the league works harder than Kobe. He'll be back at 100 percent."
Bryant wore an athletic sleeve to control swelling in the leg last season. It was one of several small ailments that slowed him during the Lakers' playoff run.
Bryant's withdrawal is the fourth this week for the U.S. team, but easily the biggest blow. One of the leaders of a team that is trying to bounce back from two recent disappointments, he and LeBron James were the first two players publicly named to the team, nearly two months before the rest of the squad was unveiled.
"That's why you have a roster," USA coach Mike Krzyzewski said Thursday during a conference call. "That's why you have a team, so that when these normal life situations come up we can go on without it being an emergency, or calling upon somebody to crash train in order to be part of a team. And that's kind of what happened in our world championships in 2002 and it happened a little bit also for the Olympics in 2004."
The Americans finished sixth in 2002 and won a bronze medal in Athens. That led to the creation of the U.S. national team program under the direction of Colangelo, and Bryant quickly committed to play.
Bryant was supposed to be on the Olympic team in 2004, but was forced to drop out while facing a sexual assault trial in Colorado.
USA Basketball said Bryant is not expected to miss any of his commitments with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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