After watching the Los Angeles Lakers finish off a 114-108 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night, there will surely be a number of people who are ready to write off the return of Kobe Bryant from an Achilles injury as an utter failure. They will point to the fact that he only played 29 minutes, scored 20 points, didn’t hit a single 3-pointer and looked to be winded at times while running down the court.
But while each of these things may be a bit below standard for Bryant — although not for nearly any other NBA player — anyone that watched the game will actually see a number of things that point to him ultimately returning to the form most are used to.
Chief amongst the reasoning for this is that the results from his second game back were night and day from the first. In his return against the Toronto Raptors, he went 2-9 from the field, scored nine points and had eight turnovers while looking lethargic all night. The game was so bad that the superstar gave himself an F on the night.
On Tuesday night, however, he was able to consistently find available shots and went 6-of-9 on two-point attempts, showing that his shooting touch had already come back. Bryant also showed glimpses of the the explosiveness that allowed him to get into the hole with consistency and relative ease in previous years. One key indicator of this was that he was fouled four times, subsequently hitting all eight free throws, and even picked up his first dunk of the 2013-14 season.
Little things such as this may not seem huge to fans who want to see 30 points a game, but they tend to be huge stepping stones in returning from an injury as major as a ruptured Achilles. Additionally, doing these things shows the world that Bryant still has the fearlessness that made him so great, and leaves reasonable minds wondering how he won’t get better with more game time, and by extension achieving a higher fitness level.
After eight months off and being 35-years old, there is no doubting that getting back to fitness will be the biggest issue that Bryant faces in returning to the court. It will likely take him close to a month to get back to the level the public has become accustomed to, but various glimpses were provided on Tuesday to show that doomsday scenarios are unrealistic at best.
When this fitness level is achieved, it is clear that Bryant will once again be an All-Star caliber player, even if waiting for this time to come could be an agonizing process.