The NBA is finally whole again. As a fan of the game of basketball that has been watching the league for my entire life, it was weird watching the league begin a season and play the first fifth of the season without Kobe Bryant on the floor for the Los Angeles Lakers. All is right with the world and the Association, though, because Kobe is back.
Well, Kobe’s back, but the production that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from Bryant certainly isn’t. Over his first three games back with the Lakers, Kobe is averaging just 11 points, 6.7 assists and 3.7 rebounds, as well as six turnovers, in 26.8 minutes per game while shooting only 38.5 percent from the floor and missing on all five of his attempts from three.
One of the things that has been talked about with Bryant’s less-than-stellar return thus far is speculation that he might be losing it. Bryant, who is now the de-facto point guard for L.A. with Steve Blake now injured, has definitely looked slower and rusty in his few games back. However, we need to pump the breaks on saying that he’s “losing” it.
You know what Bryant looks like on the floor right now? Kobe looks like a 35-year-old coming back from a major lower-body injury with no preseason to prepare him for the grind and play of the NBA. Yeah, he’s been at it for almost two decades in this league, but he is human (I think) and he’s not going to instantly come back and be other-worldly. He’s going to have to get comfortable with the game, his new teammates, and his body again, which will take time.
Could we be watching the end of Kobe as we have come to know him? It’s entirely possible that’s the case. However, it’s also entirely too soon to make that assessment. Before we start jumping the gun and making irrational claims about number 24, I think we should just sit back and see what happens as we go forward.