Nine points, eight rebounds, eight turnovers.
Of course, Kobe Bryant’s return to the Los Angeles Lakers had little to do with Sunday’s game. Bryant’s role in the surprisingly positive (even at 10-10) start is much more important. The Lakers have resembled an actual NBA team thus far, a complete surprise to me. My predictions aren’t worth the bandwidth they take up on the internet of course, but most people thought they’d stink.
So we had our first glimpse at post-Achilles-tear Kobe. I took three things away from it:
Turns out eight months away from basketball makes you rusty –
Certainly understandable. Kobe missed seven of his nine shots Sunday. Watching Derrick Rose this season shows that even the best players will take some time to get their timing back.
Kobe missed badly from three point range, and even had his patented fadeaway blocked by Dermar Derozan. No need to worry though; Bryant is a great shooter, so I’m sure he’ll start hitting open shots. His footwork guarantees the fadeaway will start falling as well.
Much more interesting…
Welcome back, Passing Kobe? –
Bryant seemed more than willing to share the ball on Sunday. He kicked out to open shooters. He dropped the ball off on the break. Basically, he did everything Regular Kobe doesn’t do. I’ll submit this photo here for evidence:
I mean, come on…
So, how long will Passing Kobe be around? We have only seen this guy a few times when Regular Kobe refused to shoot. That guy was undermining the offense, this one did everything he could to keep it moving. Who will wear #24 the rest of the season?
Regular Kobe. For sure. Take a look at the above picture again.
Seventeen years of evidence tells me we’ll see the same gunner once Kobe feels more comfortable on the court. Looking at the roster, you have to think an 80% Kobe Bryant is still the best player on the roster. You think he doesn’t know that? And if that’s the case, those kick outs to an open Shawne Williams will turn into contested jumpers.
That isn’t the best for the Lakers. And we saw a sneak preview of that Sunday…
Free Xavier! –
Trailing by six in the fourth quarter, Bryant checked in to try and rescue the Lakers like he’s done several times in the past. He replaced Xavier Henry, a player enjoying surprising success on the season who was leading the team in scoring at the time.
We know what happened…Kobe was up and down, and the Raptor lead doubled by the end of the game.
This is what will undo the Lakers’ team success through the end of this season.
Kobe won’t be Kobe for a while. He and head coach Mike D’Antoni admitted as much after the game. So why stretch Bryant’s minutes now, especially at the expense of the players who give the team the best chance to win?
In his lengthy comments postgame, Bryant said of his new teammates, “We all kind of have the same thing now, don’t you think? They’ve all kind of written us off as individuals. Together, we can use that as a calling card to bind us, to unite us.”
Sounds great. But Sunday’s game hints at more of the same.
What do you think of Kobe’s return? Did he look like a player that could soon be productive to you? Will he lead the Lakers to the playoffs?
Let me know in the comments below!
Kobe looks rusty, and i think that 3 point range is all but gone. The best thing Kobe can do is not be an a**hole and hope free agents agree to deal with him. Also I like Xavier, when u consider he left school a year or two too early he's actually on the right trajectory to be a good NBA player, but still #LOLakers
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The hate that consumes you is great Joe. May the force be with you.
I think a less than 100% Kobe will do more harm than good to the Lakers. And I don't think he'll be 100% again after that injury.
That aint hate.
I actually don't like that argument at all and i'll tell you why. What exactly is 100% Kobe? Did anybody expect 2006 Kobe to play this year? No. He didn't even play last year. When you say 100% do you think that's 2012-13 Kobe? He is a year older so he wasn't going to be that guy either. 100% is just healthy.
I think that once the explosiveness comes back, which is will then I think he'll just adjust his game to be more of a distributor than a scorer. Now… about that… this has happened before he did this on the Olympic team and he did just fine at it and the team won the gold medal.
I don't think Kobe is going to be more harm than good. Kobe will retire before that happens.
Re – Xavier Henry – You should see when he goes off for 20 points and follows it up with a 4 point performance before anyone starts saying "Free Xavier."
100% Kobe is an uninjured Kobe. Obviously his athleticism is going to decline. But they guy who played Sunday isn't physically 100%. Not comparing him to seven years ago. Talking about his physical health and conditioning.
Distributor Kobe did that on the Olympic team because he was surrounded by (at least) similar talent. He won't play that way if/when he feels like having the ball in his hands gives the best team to win.
Xavier is inconsistent game to game. But he gave them the best chance to win Sunday. 17 points in 14 minutes. Yet he was still yanked for Kobe. ie. FREE XAVIER!
I think we need to establish some type of rubric for what a healthy Kobe is… and it can't be "when I see a healthy Kobe" because that's too subjective. I am willing to agree that his conditioning is not where it needs to be but nothing he showed was an indication that his Achilles wasn't healed.
He looks like a guy who hasn't played in nine months, practiced 5-6 times in two weeks and went out and played. Meanwhile his teammates and most everyone else in the league had an offseason, training camp, summer league and preseason to get in shape. I'm just saying… Kobe didn't look hurt. He looked out of shape and timing.
I basically meant "Healthy" as "when he doesn't look like a guy who hasn't played in nine months." So I think we're on the same page. He wouldn't be playing if he was still hurt (meaning the Achilles was still injured). Healthy Kobe is Fully Conditioned Kobe.
Even when he's the full version of himself, it'll be without as much lift. That Rimgrazer dunk yesterday was, um, not so impressive. Watching Twitter celebrate it was sad.
It doesn't matter if Kobe plays or not. They aren't winning anything so lets not go back and forth about these Lakers. They may sneak into the playoffs and if they do they will get swept. So do you tank this season to have a better chance at a franchise player? I say put in Nick Young, Wesley Johnson, and Chris Kaman for extended minutes…yep that will get the job done 🙂
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Ok, let me briefly break down this whole narrative of Kobe just never passes the ball.
Kobe's actually a very willingly passer relative to his role on the team over the years (which is to score). He average 6 assists last year and averages 5 assists for his career. Out of all the FGs that Shaq scored for us when he played for the Lakers who assisted on the most of them? Kobe Bryant.
Listen, it's simple. If you're hitting your shots and shown the ability to be a knock down he is very willing. He used to dish out to Sasha Vujevic (the machine!) of all people for corner 3's all the time.
Where Kobe gets ripped is when no one is hitting then he feels he needs to be more aggressive….when he gets like this I can definitely see why ppl hate it…I do as well sometimes. As far as the picture above, like many a Laker possession, when the shot clock gets down to 6 seconds whoever has it just finds Kobe and KB is forced to put up a shot, ususally under duress…hence a bad shot (which he is capable of making)
I'm NOT sayiing he never or does not take bad shots…of course he does. Jordan did, KD does, Iverson of course…..basically any great scorer has/had. My whole point is don't just dismiss Kobe's passing ability like he NEVER passes the rock or isn't a good or willing passer within the framework of his role on the team (which is to score).
I don't mean to say that Kobe never passes normally. It's that his first (second, third? LOL) instinct is to score. Which, as you mentioned, is his role on the team.
Sunday, his first instinct was to pass. It was evident. What I'm saying is as he gets more comfortable that balance will move more toward normal, which will set back the chemistry the team has developed. Kobe and D'Antoni have both made mention of that chemistry.
A not-as-good Kobe playing with the same shoot first mentality makes this Laker team the same as it was before. If he shifts his role to more of a distributor as he becomes healthier, I think they'll be better off. But I that a'int happening IMO.
"Sunday, his first instinct was to pass."
Which, for the time being, is a problem. People are going to play him for the pass until he gets comfortable scoring again.
I don't know what's going to happen with him. That knee injury was supposed to do him in, then he put together the season he had last year (pre-injury). But time always win in the end.
Oh, and that picture just cracks me up. It signifies Shoot First Kobe.
I don't actually remember that play. So I'm not saying that play is perfectly accurate. It's a metaphor, lol.
Oh the picture is utterly hilarious…I admit I do crack up everytime I see it, lmaooo. Like dag, man…is NO one else open? lol
*Hi 5* Larry :D!