Perhaps one of the most durable players in the history of the NBA made his
long-awaited (sorry, that’s a ridiculous thing to say when a guy has missed eight months with a ruptured achilles tendon) comeback last weekend against the Toronto Raptors, the team he famously put 81 points on 22/1/2006:
Last Sunday he was a bit more subdued, playing 28 minutes and going 2-9 for 9 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals in a loss. He had 20 against Phoenix two nights later, also in a loss, then 21 on Saturday in a win over Charlotte. What was significant about the Charlotte performance was that it came on the second half of a back-to-back. Last night, his fifth game back, he had 8 points but went 4-14 from the field.
He’s 40% from the field so far, but only 13.3% from three. He is also averaging 6.8 assists so far in his comeback which is quite a significant stat given the perception from most (myself included) that this season was going to be about him pushing towards the NBA’s all-time points record. Of course 4-14 rather supports that theory, doesn’t it?
Here is a video of his performance against Phoenix, including an impressive dunk for a guy of 35 with 1459 career games under his belt:
After the Charlotte win, Bryant commented that the goal of winning a championship hadn’t changed. The Lakers are 11-13 and five games back in the Pacific Division. Teams in the west have started the season strongly, notably the 21-4 Portland Trailblazers and the 19-5 San Antonio Spurs. Even the “tanking” Phoenix Suns are 14-9 and have been playing very well.
It will be very tricky for the Lakers to even make the playoffs this season, even though we can probably quite safely assume that several of the teams currently above the Lakers in the standings will fall away as the season progresses. The Lakers still have a lot of quality in their squad, but right up to the point that Kobe signed his massive new contract they looked prepared to see out this season and rebuild over the offseason.
Kobe coming back ensures that the Lakers will at least be interesting and it is frankly incredible to see a guy of his age and with as many miles on the clock as he has performing at what one cannot argue is anything but an elite level. A few more 4-14’s however, and the experiment might start to look a little foolish.