If you want to get the most out of Kobe Bryant, put a big obstacle in front of him. Like trying to come back from a ruptured Achilles at age 34.
Kobe has been working out diligently on his recovery, in fact holding himself back and letting it heal has been the hard part, he has said.
Lakers co-owner Jim Buss was in Las Vegas to watch his team play in Summer League and was interviewed by NBA TV and said this about Kobe.
“Well, we’re in Vegas, and I would bet a lot of money that this guy comes back probably in preseason. He’s real sharp in taking care of himself and he’s not going to rush anything just to get back and prove a point. He’s going to come back when he’s right. He’s a machine. He’s inhuman. I see him coming back at the beginning of this season. I can’t believe how much he’s progressed so far.”
The normal recovery time would have had Kobe back somewhere in the middle of the season. But you knew Kobe would be ready sooner than that.
When he returns he will not be the same player — he will lose some athleticism, some explosiveness. Not even Kobe can deny father time.
But over the last five years Kobe’s game has evolved from using that explosiveness to get his shots to using his footwork, his moves, his crafty play to get the shots he wants. He’s moved more into the post at times. Give him the ball at the wing and he’ll make a couple of jab steps, create a little m room then drive to the elbow area where he can pull up for a jumper. He has become very good at getting to his spots on the floor.
Which is to say, Kobe is still going to be good when he comes back. Just not the same.
The Lakers have a preseason game in China, I’d be surprised if he’s back for that. But Game 1 of the regular season, that would not be a surprise.
Take that Stephen Curry.
Gregg Popovich would pull him so fast he’d look like a fidget spinner if he tried this in a game, but during warmups before Game 4 Monday night LaMarcus Aldridge knocked down a deep three from one knee.
If Aldridge is taking a lot of threes that’s not a good sign for the Spurs, but we’ll see if he can have a big night and keep the Spurs alive in this series.
Stephen Curry‘s pregame warmups draw people into the arena early, it’s a show in and of itself.
Before Game 4 Monday night, Curry was taking a couple shots from the center-court logo. And draining them. Like layups. Because he can.
We’ll see if he can put on that kind of show when the game tips off.
This was expected. It still sucks to hear.
Kawhi Leonard is out for Game 4 vs. the Warriors Monday night.
Leonard has sprained his left ankle in Game 5 against the Rockets and sat out Game 6 of that series (a San Antonio win), then returned for Game 1 against the Warriors. He re-injured his ankle twice in that game — once stepping on David Lee‘s foot, once when Zaza Pachulia slid under him on a jumper and took away his landing space. Leonard left that game with his team up 23 points, but the Warriors rallied back to win Game 1 and have controlled the series ever since. Leonard has not returned to the series.
San Antonio will play with pride on Monday night, but it may not be enough. You can bet the Warriors were reminded all day about taking their foot off the gas after what happened with Cleveland Sunday.
In Toronto, Masai Ujiri is the head of basketball operations and the guy with the hammer on deals. Jeff Weltman was his right-hand man and team GM.
Make that was his right-hand man, Weltman has been hired by the Orlando Magic to run its basketball operations, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.
The Orlando Magic have hired Toronto Raptors general manager Jeff Weltman as the franchise’s president of basketball operations, league sources told The Vertical.
Weltman met with Orlando CEO Alex Martins and ownership on Monday, finalizing a five-year deal, league sources said.
Orlando officials had been intrigued with Cleveland GM David Griffin, but moved steadily toward Weltman as they became further engaged with his candidacy in recent weeks, league sources said. Weltman has been deeply involved in every aspect of the Raptors’ front office under president Masai Ujiri as Toronto became a perennial Eastern Conference contender.
Making a move now is smart in this sense: The Magic have the No. 5 pick in this draft and would want the guy making the big picture decisions about this roster on board to make this selection.
That roster already has some quality pieces — Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier, Nikola Vucevic, maybe Elfrid Payton — but has underachieved. There were questions about the culture and a lack of accountability, and that blame ultimately fell on GM Rob Hennigan and he was let go. Frank Vogel is locked in as
Frank Vogel is locked in as coach, so how well Weltman and Vogel work together — and share a vision — will be key.
Weltman is well-respected around the league. He spent five seasons as an assistant GM in Milwaukee, and has been with the Raptors since 2013 as that team has risen up the Eastern Conference standings and had its best run in franchise history. He also has worked with the Clippers and in Denver. He’s been one of those guys expected to get a chance in the big chair for a few years now.
He’s got it, and it’s an interesting challenge in Orlando.