A look inside Kobe Bryant's knee

At Lakers.com, Mike Trudell has a great interview with Lakers trainer Gary Vitti -- who could very well be the only member of the support staff returning next season -- covering a wide range of issues. Vitti talks about his relationship with Phil Jackson, and by extension, the relationship between a trainer and head coach. In short, the trainer hears things players may not want repeated. He also hears things demanding they be repeated.

Finding the right balance is key to gaining the trust of the general and infantry alike. Interesting stuff, well worth the read. Of course, "interesting" can't necessarily compete with a detailed breakdown of what's happening inside Kobe Bryant's knee.

"His is an articulating cartilage problem. The way I describe that to people is that if you look at the end of chicken bone where it’s nice and white, well, that’s not bone, it’s cartilage. Sort of like a Teflon surface that when two bones come together, that cartilage is there so that bones don’t rub on each other. Now, the fact that it’s nice and white tells you it doesn’t have a good blood flow to it, and that means it cannot heal or regenerate. So, over time, as that cartilage wears away, you end up with osteoarthritis. Kobe doesn’t have an arthritic knee, but he has a knee that has some joint degeneration to it. His issues and his age are such that it eliminates some procedures, like microfracture and that type of things. But he is a candidate for certain other things, and we know all the procedures all around the world that are available to him, and the appropriate decisions will be made, he’ll have the best care."

At his exit interview, Bryant said a long summer combined with better health at the end of this year vs. 2009-10 mean the chance to come back stronger next season. To reach "another level," as he put it. Vitti agreed it's possible, to a point. "I do think he has more progression there, but structurally there are some issues that cannot be reversed, but can be dealt with," he told Trudell. "There are a couple of cards we have up our sleeve that we plan on playing, and he and I have been in daily communication about that."

It's impossible to predict how Bryant will hold up heading forward-- he's as well equipped as anyone to hold off Father Time for as long as possible-- but while simultaneously giving you something totally new to think about after stripping clean a plate of buffalo wings, Vitti illustrates the obstacles Kobe faces in the battle to stave off steep physical decline.

(H/T: TrueHoop)