Even as Kobe Bryant works his way back from injury, questions still linger. The first one and hot topic at the moment is when exactly will Kobe return. Many thought that would be Friday on the road against the Sacramento Kings, but Bryant cleared that up with reporters Tuesday.
Kobe Bryant just told me that he is NOT going to be playing Friday against Sacramento. He is not ruling out Sunday against Toronto, however
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) December 5, 2013
So, that means Kobe’s return has been pushed back. I believe he will make his triumphant return in the next home game. That would mean a comeback Sunday against the Toronto Raptors. The same team he dropped a record 81 points on several years ago. But let’s be real, he won’t get anywhere near that mark when and if he does play because there are still questions that linger even with Kobe returning.
How good will he be post-injury? Well, he’s Kobe Bryant, so there’s that, but that doesn’t mean he’s immune to everything that’s thrown at him. Let’s not forget, this was no strained hamstring or broken ankle. This was a tear of the achilles, one of the most feared injuries among NBA players. Dominique Wilkins tore his achilles in 1992 and enjoyed several productive seasons, though, Wilkins says he never had the same elevation. Elton Brand ruptured his achilles in 2007, and though his output dipped, Brand still remains productive with the Dallas Mavericks.
Chauncey Billups ruptured his at age 35 and nagging injuries have slowed him down completely. This injury is a crap shoot and Kobe can give us all the stoic “me against my critic” routine all he wants, but he may end up being more of a leader and facilitator on-court, and not the deadly scoring threat we’ve come to know.
That’s a sentiment Pau Gasol shared as he talked with reporters following practice.
“We’ll be a benefit no matter what,” Gasol says. “Just his presence will pick everybody’s energy up and spirit up. We’ve been playing with energy, but with him on the floor, it could be a lot higher.”
That energy and chemistry will be tested early on while Kobe faces his own mental test of making a full comeback. Even as he returns, the Los Angeles Lakers face a series of “what if’s” moving forward. Yes, Kobe will retire a Laker, but with so much money committed to Bryant moving forward, what happens if he goes down again like Derrick Rose? Who will they pay then?
Even with a Kobe return, what happens if Steve Nash is out indefinitely as feared and Kobe is asked to shoulder more of the point-guard load? And will they or won’t they be trading Pau Gasol will be a lingering issue going into the trade deadline. Yes, Kobe is set to return, but it’s a return loaded with questions and doubts and high stakes.