When Kobe Bryant went down with an injury earlier this season, many people figured it would be the last time we would see him on the court this season. Since then, the doubt has grown and even people like Magic Johnson are urging Bryant to sit out the remainder of the season in order to be fully healthy whenever he does return to action.
Health is not the only reason people think Bryant should shut it down. The Los Angeles Lakers‘ record has also played a huge factor in the debate. The Lakers have lost 12 of their last 13 games overall and look to be getting worse with time. I agree that if this team does continue to slide, then so should the chances of Bryant’s return. Everyone seems to be on the same page about wanting Bryant to think about taking extended time off. The only issue is that Bryant himself feels otherwise. Prior to the Lakers’ last loss against the Boston Celtics, Bryant had this to say:
“The only thing I can afford to consider is getting better, getting stronger. I can’t allow myself to think any other way. I can only think about the next step. To do anything else becomes distracting if you allow yourself, if you give yourself wiggle room to not push yourself as hard as you possibly can. To think about sitting out and this, that and the other, your motivation is all wrong. I refuse to think that way. We’ll see where it’s at in February and see if it’s good to go.”
Bryant will have his knee reevaluated in February in hopes of getting some good news. He must feel like he has something to prove if he is going to risk it all to come back to a horrible team this year, especially after two serious injuries over a short period. What he most likely wants to prove is that he’s still an All-Star-caliber player and that he has not given up on his quest for a sixth NBA Championship. Another aspect people tend to overlook is the impact that Kobe’s play may have on the free agency market in the upcoming offseason. More players will be looking to join forces with Bryant if he is healthy and playing effectively toward the end of the season.
If the Lakers enter the offseason without Bryant playing at a high level, then they can kiss their chances of landing a star player goodbye. It is a game of chess from here on out, and the Lakers want a chance to be crowned with “The King” himself. Kobe may be able to sell LeBron James on the idea of joining forces for a few years; until Bryant is ready to hand this franchise over on a golden platter. That is just not possible if Bryant sits out the rest of the season, so I can see why he is itching to get back on the floor. It is not about this year, it is all about the future of the Lakers and they may not have much of a future of they come out the offseason empty handed.