Los Angeles Lakers' center Shaquille O'Neal (L) la

Shaq says he’s ‘sure’ Kobe will return early from Achilles injury, believes he’s targeting opening night


Kobe Bryant has historically shown an unmatched work ethic where basketball is concerned, and there’s no question he’ll continue that level of perseverance as he’s undergoing rehabilitation for the torn Achilles injury he suffered in April near the end of the regular season.

Bryant has already said that he’s shattered the normal timetable for recovery from this type of injury, which would have had him returning to the court sometime near the end of December at the earliest. But one of his former teammates believes Bryant will do everything possible to be back on the floor much sooner than that.

From Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times:

Shaquille O’Neal expects Kobe Bryant to return from his Achilles’ injury for the Lakers’ season opener on Oct. 29.

“I’m sure Kobe is going to come back early,” said Shaquille O’Neal in a video interview with Time Warner Cable SportsNet on Friday.  “Anything before nine months is early.  Him making the first game, I wish him well.  He’s a very, very competitive kid.  He loves the naysayers.  He loves proving people wrong.”When he put the rumor out there that he may be back the first game, best believe he’s trying to come back the first game,” continued O’Neal.

We know Bryant wants to play as early as possible, and Lakers fans want him back on the floor contributing as soon as he’s healthy enough to do so — with the caveat that he’s able to play somewhere close to the level that he could before the injury was sustained.

If Kobe comes back early and is a shell of his former self (yet still dominates the ball offensively and demands the same amount of touches), that’s going to hurt the team a lot more than would his absence for another couple of months.

Bryant will do everything he can to be back as soon as it’s physically possible — that much is certain. He just needs to be honest with himself about his abilities during the recovery process, and make the smart decision as to when the time to return would be best.

James Harden: “I am the best player in the league. I believe that.”

James Harden, Stephen Curry
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James Harden was the MVP last season — if you ask his fellow NBA players.

The traditional award (based on a media vote) went to Stephen Curry (in the closest vote in four years), and that was the right call (in my mind). But from the time it happened Harden did not buy it. And he still doesn’t buy it. In the least — and he’s using that as fuel for this season. That’s what he told Fran Blinebury over at NBA.com.

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

Well, it’s a more realistic claim than Paul George’s.

“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.

“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”

That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.

I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?

It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.