Kobe Bryant announced Friday that he will make his season debut Sunday, as the Los Angeles Lakers will play host to the Toronto Raptors. It is great news for a Lakers team that has hovered right around the .500 mark and found themselves at 9-9 as they took on the Sacramento Kings Friday night.
The Lakers held on to the good news as the traveled south to face their intrastate rivals, and news of Bryant’s return was all they needed to get the win and break above .500. It was a close game throughout, as all five Los Angeles starters scored in double figures and pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 106-100 victory. Pau Gasol and Jodie Meeks both had 19 points, and Steve Blake added 10 assists to improve the Lakers’ record to 10-9, only a half game back of eighth place in the West.
If you are Mike D’Antoni, you have to be happy that your team managed to stay above .500 without your superstar. If you are Bryant, you are also happy because you are returning to a team who has a shot to do some damage in the West. Basically, the Lakers did all that you could ask of them in Bryant’s absence, and fans should be somewhat giddy about the return of the Black Mamba.
As for the effectiveness of Bryant, that is a big unknown. No one knows exactly what to expect from him or if he is still the dominate figure we are use to seeing on the hardwood. It could take some time for Bryant to get back into the swing of things and to build chemistry with his teammates.
Either way, the Lakers are getting their star back and Bryant is returning to a team with a real shot at the playoffs. After the whole Dwight Howard fiasco, the atmosphere in LA is returning to normal, but the Lakers are not championship contenders, yet.