Well, it’s official. Tomorrow night against the Toronto Raptors, the Black Mamba, Kobe Bryant will return to the Los Angeles Lakers‘ lineup. The Lakers’ organization is predicting a dominant return for Bryant, but how can that occur if Mike D’Antoni is planning on limiting Bryant’s minutes to around 20?
Let’s be honest here, it’s nice for D’Antoni to think he has control over the Lakers’ squad, but Kobe is the only person who will decide how many minutes he will play in his return. If Kobe wants to play 48, Kobe will play 48. If Bryant wants to play 20, then he’ll play 20. Regardless of how many minutes Bryant ends up playing, it’s completely his decision and his decision alone.
The one person who has taken advantage of Bryant’s absence the most is clearly D’Antoni. Without Kobe on the bench, Mike has been able to run the Lakers exactly how he wants. That all changes with Kobe’s return tomorrow. D’Antoni shouldn’t expect Los Angeles to be hoisting up close to 30 three-pointers per game anymore. D’Antoni shouldn’t expect to be the vocal leader anymore in timeouts. Most importantly, D’Antoni better not expect Bryant to sit back quietly and allow him run the Lakers however he sees fit without Kobe saying a word.
Kobe has played with the likes of Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard and managed to chase both superstar centers out of town. Pau Gasol has played well while wearing the purple and gold, but that has not stopped Bryant from telling Gasol exactly when he was to man up and put some big boy pants on.
D’Antoni better check himself at the door prior to Bryant’s return. Kobe will be willing to listen to D’Antoni upon his return, but as far as minutes go and final decisions, Bryant will have the final word. That’s just the way it is in L.A. and D’Antoni better learn that and fast.