It always seemed pretty much impossible that Kobe Bryant would be back from his ruptured Achilles tendon in April in time for the NBA’s opening night. But because he’s Kobe Bryant we all looked at it differently — this guy played with a broken finger on his shooting hand and just adjusted his shot to make it work. He’s the Black Knight from Monty Python (‘Tis a flesh wound) and you just couldn’t write him off.
Now, it seems Mike D’Antoni is writing him off from opening night. Almost.
At his postgame press conference in Beijing after the Lakers fell to Golden State Tuesday morning, D’Antoni was asked about the chances of Kobe playing opening night Oct. 29 against the Clippers and he was honest in his response (via Zach Harper at Eye on Basketball).
“No. I don’t think so. We’ll see. I think it’s an ongoing process but that would be tough.”
That first reaction — “no” — is what Mike D’Antoni really thinks. That second comment about “process” and it “would be tough” is D’Antoni remembering Kobe is the guy with the power in their relationship and he wants that door open.
Kobe has yet to practice with the team. He is running — he ran around the arena in Beijing while his teammates practiced — but that is very different from sharp stops, cutting and all that comes with playing in a basketball game.
Like a hamstring, an Achilles needs to be fully healed and not pushed too much after an injury because it is prone to setbacks. It is not a situation where it is as simple as “if Kobe just works harder and ignores the pain he’ll be fine.” If it were a matter of will he’d be back.
The Lakers need him back but more importantly the Lakers need him back right — any hopes of a playoff spot in the West hinge on him not only returning early in the season but also being pretty close to his old self. This Lakers team is not one with a lot of margin for error. They can wait a few weeks to get him right.