LOS ANGELES — Kobe Bryant is back — he was walking around the Lakers’ locker room pregame in uniform ready to go — and he is going to try to score. It’s what he does.
But don’t be surprised if on his return Sunday night against Toronto you see a lot of the dishing, facilitating Kobe for the Lakers. Mike D’Antoni suggested as much before the game.
“I think he will try to facilitate early, just to get into a rhythm,” D’Antoni said. “Again, I just want him to be able to read the situation and make the play.”
Kobe’s return means there will be some bumps in the road — it’s never perfectly smooth when a new No. 1 option in the offense is inserted back into the lineup.
“There’ll be a little bit of a sorting out process now, we’ll find out what we need to adjust and he needs to adjust to the team and visa versa and go from there…” D’Antoni said. “Obviously we want to keep our pace the same, but he practiced at that pace with the ball movement and all that.”
Teams have been known to have letdowns when their stars return, D’Antoni said he warned his team about that.
“I think the biggest thing we need to guard against is standing around and watching him play,” D’Antoni said. “Sometimes you go to an All-Star Game and you watch somebody that you haven’t played with and you just sit there watching and you really don’t get into it. We can’t afford to have Nick Young take a step back, or Wesley Johnson — they have to take a step forward.”
That said, the only limits on Bryant will be his own.
“He’ll be limited by his conditioning and how he feels about the other parts of his body,” D’Antoni said. “His Achilles is fine, it’s just everything else. I’m guessing in the 20s (minutes).”
The Lakers are a team looking at trying to make a playoff run in the deep Western Conference. The Lakers went into Sunday night 10-9 and just one game out of the eighth slot in the West.
Whether the Lakers can make that cut with Kobe Bryant is up for debate, but they were not going to do it without him.
“Just be Kobe Bryant, I think that’s good enough…” D’Antoni said. “It might not be today, but down the line, finishing games, controlling games down the fourth quarter, putting us in a position to win games, I think he’s the best at it in the league. Before that he will draw so much attention it should make it easier for other players to score.”
It should. But now we will see if it will.