Kobe Bryant is practicing with the Lakers again.
That is big. Last season he didn’t, something he and Phil Jackson decided on together — they were going to save his sore knee for game time and so he only practiced a handful of times all season. It showed. Not in Kobe’s game so much as team chemistry — Kobe was not there to push this team in practice and you saw that manifest itself come the playoffs.
Kobe is out there now, learning Mike Brown’s system and pushing the Lakers.
He credits the experimental version of platelet-rich plasma therapy he had done in Germany this summer with helping, Kobe told Marc Spears of Yahoo.
“I’m not a big medicine, techie guy. But I know my knee feels 90 percent better. My understanding was that the guy who invented it … [Germany] is where he’s from and where his home base is. So I didn’t want to go someplace else where he had to move his equipment. If I am going to do it, I want to do it right and do it in the place where he is most comfortable doing it.”
Q: What can you do physically with that knee that you couldn’t do at the end of last season?
Bryant: “Anything I want. I can run. I can jump. I can run the track. I can lift weights the way I want to lift weights. I can practice every day. Those are things I couldn’t do last year.”
If Kobe’s knee holds up all season, Dirk Nowitzki will not be the only NBA player making an annual summer trip to Germany. Kobe may have just been out in front of the parade of players.
Also in the same interview, Kobe denies that he wants to be traded from the Lakers. That rumor was always pure speculation (unless you see a total Lakers collapse) so it was kind of moot. But he denied it.
Maybe what Kobe Bryant’s knee needed was a little rest and some expensive, exotic therapy.
His knee had been an issue the last couple seasons — it’s almost bone on bone. It’s why Kobe had surgery on it last summer, and why he had to have it drained multiple times in previous years. It’s why Kobe sat out most Lakers practices last season. But three straight trips to the NBA finals with an Olympics thrown in is a lot of basketball and not a lot of rest the last few years.
This year the Lakers got unceremoniously bounced in the second round by the Mavericks. Lakers fans hated that, but apparently Kobe’s knees liked it.
That’s what he told Derek Fisher while the two were raking in an easy paycheck in the Philippines, according to the Orange County Register.
Derek Fisher said Friday about teammate and pal Kobe Bryant: “He’s telling me — and I saw for myself — that his knee is the best it’s been in a long time…”
Fisher said he didn’t really believe Bryant’s boasting initially, but seeing Bryant in action was convincing.
“I saw it a little bit in Manila,” Fisher said, smiling, “so I believe it now.”
Things that would help the Lakers bounce back next year include a healthier Kobe (with a new coach he can’t be sitting out practices). Another thing that would help is a new point guard, but we’ll talk to Fisher about that later.
We’re still not sure how serious this is from Kobe’s side, but Turkish club Besiktas — the club that signed Deron Williams to play for them next fall and had Allen Iverson last season — is still trying to court Kobe Bryant.
The club’s very talkative coach explained to the Los Angeles Times how the team hopes this will go down.
“We made our offer to Kobe and now we are waiting for their comments about the situation,” Ataman said. “But we didn’t talk about details. I think they are thinking now about our offer, and I think in the beginning of August, the first week of August, our president [Yildirim Demiroren] will be in the United States for Deron Williams’ press conference and I think that they will meet to sign in USA with Kobe.”
As we’ve said before, Ataman likes to talk but don’t bet on a deal. Even if it has an opt out to return to the USA after the lockout ends.
For one, Kobe’s body could use the rest. He has talked about the wear on his body from three straight trips to the finals and some USA Basketball thrown in, and Lakers fans want him to use the lockout to rest. Of course, he will not see it that way — he’ll see it as time ticking off the clock and a chance to grow his brand globally — but his knees are showing the wear and tear of a 13-year NBA career and a little time off could help recovery. This is a guy who skipped practices for much of last year, the grind of playing in any league is not extending his career.
Then there’s the matter of money. Besiktas was reportedly looking for a special sponsor to pick up Kobe’s salary (he does have an existing endorsement deal with Turkish Airlines). That salary offer was supposed to be $450,000 a month, although Kobe’s people told them it should be closer to $1 million a month — even that is a dramatic decrease from what he makes in the NBA. The Turkish coach said money is still being negotiated.
Finding that sponsor will be a challenge as Besiktas had its assets frozen due to a match-fixing scandal on the soccer side. The basketball side of the operation is not tied to the scandal, but these are not the kind of things that makes it easier to get sponsors. And this is a team already with a reputation of being late and missing payments to players.
But it’s safe to say they probably will talk in August a little.
It was during the Colonel Kurtz-like decent into darkness that was the Lakers play around Christmas that Kobe Bryant decided to do something very Kobe — fight through his knee pain and swelling because he needed to practice with the team again. That knee had kept him from practicing all season but it was no longer going to be an issue, he decided. As if one can just decide that.
The Lakers were lacking energy and cohesion, and practice is where those things are earned, so Kobe returned to push his teammates in practice.
Well, that time is over.
Kobe went back to not practicing with the Lakers Monday, according to Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register. Kobe shot and did some work on the side but was not part of the Lakers intensive practice. Phil Jackson was good with this.
…“it’s time for him to be back” to individual strength training and avoid extra “wearing, tearing on the court.”
“It’s not an issue,” Jackson said. “He has to work with what sustains the effort he can put on the court (in games).”
The Lakers have won four in a row and six out of seven. Sure, those wins primarily have not been against the most stellar competition the league has to offer, but considering the Lakers have lost at home to the Bucks and Pacers and Grizzlies, Lakers fans should just gladly accept the wins with a smile.
The energy is up, so it seems Kobe’s practice return did the job. For now. Next week and through the end of the month Los Angeles will get tested against better teams, then in February there comes the seven game Grammy road trip, which will be the midterm for the Lakers and Kobe’s knee.