The stage was set at Staples center for Kobe Bryant to have a coming out party against a depleted Toronto Raptors squad, but nobody gave the Raptors that script.
The Raptors were without the services of Rudy Gay due to a trade, but Amir Johnson lifted the team to a 106-94 win in Los Angeles. Johnson contributed 32 points to the cause to go along with 10 rebounds. The city of angels was abuzz all weekend about the return of the Black Mamba, but Johnson stole the show even if it was only for one night. How does the return of Kobe impact the Los Angeles Lakers going forward?
In his first game since tearing his Achilles, Bryant produced nine points, eight rebounds and four assists. Even though the Lakers lost the game, the team and the city had a moral victory with the return of Kobe. The franchise phenom showed glimmers of the player he truly is, but it will take time and patience for Bryant to return to his illustrious status. If Kobe is himself, how far can the Lakers really go?
The Lakers currently sit at 10-10 and 10th in the west. Even in Kobe’s absence, the Lakers are still putting up over 100 points a game and are fourth in the league in assists per game. In the game against Toronto, the bench of the Lakers outscored the starters by a substantial margin, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. This shows the Lakers have depth which is something the team will need when facing the top contenders.
The return of Kobe is what everybody has been waiting for and tonight was just the start of the journey. Kobe’s accomplishments and impact on the game of basketball cannot even be put into words, and he still has an opportunity to be the king of the throne when it is all said and done. Kobe is pining for that sixth ring and the journey for that championship will be a long and difficult one, but I would never bet against the Black Mamba, would you?
Greg Douglas is an NBA writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on twitter @thegpd93 or add him to your Google network.