That Kobe Bryant is recovering as fast as he is from an Achilles injury that could have been career ending says everything you need to know about his drive, his care of his body and his work ethic.
All of that may not have him back opening night.
Kobe did a Nike-fueled world tour selling shoes and everywhere he went he gets asked about his return — and he continues to not give a firm timeline. The latest quote comes to us via Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.
‘I don’t know [whether] that means I’ll start the season – I hope so,” Bryant said in a recent interview to Time Out Dubai to promote his upcoming there later this month to host a basketball clinic.
“I’m feeling pretty good,’” Bryant said, ‘stronger than I was. I’m ahead of [my recovery] schedule.”
Lakers fans should expect Kobe back at some early point in the season, but they need to understand he’s not going to be quite the same player. He’ll still be good, but not exactly the same. Over the past few years Kobe’s game had shifted from using his explosiveness to using his basketball IQ and footwork to get the shots he wanted where he wanted. He generally did it — he could get to the elbow and rise up and knock down the jumper.
That footwork and IQ aren’t going anywhere, but he will not get there quite as quickly and not have quite the same lift on the jumper. And in the NBA the margins for error are pretty small.
The bigger issue will be defense, where Kobe already gambled more than he should and now will not be able to recover as well. Combine that with the losses of Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace and the question will be can the Lakers defend well enough to get into the playoffs.
For the Lakers to make the playoffs they are going to need Kobe back early, and for him to be fully Kobe, able to run and play in the Mike D’Antoni system. We’ll see if he can do it.