5 Reasons Kobe Bryant Won’t Save the Los Angeles Lakers
5 Reasons Kobe Bryant Won't Save the Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers have gotten off to a 5-7 start this season, which is about what everyone expected from a team missing their best player, Kobe Bryant. Bryant tore his Achilles’ at the end of last season, and he has been working his way back to the court. Kobe recently rejoined Lakers’ practices, which has set off a fresh round of speculation on when he might return and what his presence could mean for the Lakers.
Kobe said this week that he could see a return by the end of November, which would be ahead of the timetable that was laid out when he was originally injured. The Lakers need to be careful not to rush Bryant back, as he could re-injure himself.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, there are still many questions about Bryant’s health and return, as well as whether or not he will be the same player when he does return. Bryant was absolutely incredible last season, averaging 27.3 PPG, 6.0 APG and 5.6 RPG. However, he is 35 years old and has 17 years of NBA games on his legs. There were questions about whether he could continue to be elite before his injury, and they are even more magnified now.
The Lakers and their fans hope that Bryant’s return can save the team, and that he will be able to lead them back to the playoffs. However, with all the issues surrounding his health as well as the level of competition in the Western Conference, that seems unlikely. The Lakers are not going to make the playoffs, and these are the top 5 reasons Kobe Bryant will not save them.
Bryant May Not Return Anytime Soon
Kobe is talking about a November return, but what if that changes? He could have a setback, doctors could say he’s not ready, or he could try to push it and find out his body can’t handle it. It seemed like Derrick Rose was a few weeks away from returning all last season, and he never made a single appearance.
It is very possible that Bryant will have to push his return back, and that will hurt the Lakers’ chances. The West is very good, and by January they could very well be in too deep a hole for Bryant to dig them out of. Until Kobe actually sets foot on the court, any return date is just speculation.
Kobe Will Take Time to Find Form When He Does Return
Even when Bryant does return, it will certainly take him time to find his form. His athleticism has already been fading over the last few seasons, and he could find that he is completely sapped of his quickness and leaping ability.
Additionally, it will take time for him to get into game shape and find his rhythm, as he hasn’t played competitively since mid April. Kobe is not going to come back and immediately be his old self, if he ever gets back to it. Unfortunately, anything less than a peak Bryant will not be enough for the Lakers.
Kobe's Presence Will Hinder Young Talent
One of the biggest stories for the Lakers this season has been the development of Jordan Hill, who is averaging 10.4 PPG and 8.4 RPG with a very impressive 25.00 PER. Hill is not the next Laker superstar, but does have the potential to be a huge asset for them going forward.
However, Bryant’s return will take touches away from Hill, reducing him to defense and rebounding role he has filled for the last two years. Bryant’s absence has forced other players to step up, and no one has responded better than Hill. However, Kobe will make sure he gets his 20 shots a game, and that means that potential future assets like Hill and Jodie Meeks will be relegated to smaller roles.
Lakers Can't Give Bryant Enough Support
Even Bryant does come back and plays close to his normal level, the fact remains that the Lakers are simply not that good. Pau Gasol has not had the rebound year that many expected, Steve Nash is perpetually injured, and Hill, Meeks and Steve Blake are not going to provide enough support.
If the Lakers are going to make the playoffs, Bryant will have to carry them there, which is just too much to ask. The Lakers are planning for the future, and for that reason they only made minor additions this offseason. That has left them with a noticeable lack of talent, and they can’t give Bryant the help he needs.
The West is Simply Too Good
Let’s say for arguments’ sake that everything goes right. Bryant returns early, plays well and the rest of the Lakers play up to their own abilities. Even then, the Lakers would not be a playoff team. Why? Because the rest of the Western Conference is simply too good for the Lakers to compete.
By the end of the season, the top six in the West will be the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors in some order. That leaves the Lakers competing with the Portland Trail Blazers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Dallas Mavericks and possibly the Denver Nuggets and New Orleans Pelicans for the final two spots. It is rather unlikely that the Lakers get one, because most of those other teams are just flat out better than them.
There are simply too many issues and challenges facing Bryant and the Lakers to overcome. Bryant may return and he may be his old self, but even that will not save the Lakers this season.