It’s one of the major story lines of this season: When will Kobe Bryant be back on the court for the Lakers? And once he is, how is a 35-year-old coming off an Achilles tendon rupture going to look?
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar says not to expect the same Kobe.
The NBA’s all time leading scorer was on CBS Sports Radio Wednesday and talked about Kobe’s injury, as transcribed by Ken Berger at CBSSports.com.
“It’s a rebuilding year for them because Kobe has been hurting and he has a very devastating type of injury,” Abdul-Jabbar said in a recorded interview that aired Thursday on CBS Sports Radio’s morning show with Tiki Barber, Brandon Tierney and Dana Jacobson. “I don’t think he will be able to come back as quickly and completely as he would like. It’s gonna be tough on the Lakers this year….
“When Kobe does come back, it’s gonna be a different Kobe and that will definitely effect the outcome for the Lakers long-term,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “… It’s gonna be a test for him this year, absolutely.”
Nobody who has ever watched Kobe would question his resolve and commitment to getting back to being the best player he can be. And there is no doubt that in the past few years Kobe’s game had evolved away from relying on his fading explosiveness to more about technique, footwork and IQ to get to his spots on the floor and get his shots. That will help him here.
But if he gets to those spots just a little more slowly, if the elevation is just a little lower, things will be that much harder for him. Defense also will be a challenge.
Kareem is right, Kobe is not going to be quite the same. He’ll still be good, maybe very good, but it will be different. How far that can take the Lakers (with Steve Nash and Pau Gasol) is the question.
This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.
After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.
Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).
Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.
Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.
But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.
He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.
LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.
Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?
In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.
But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.
Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.
“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”
It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)
With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.
President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.
“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”
There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.
It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.