Questions About Kobe Go Beyond a Return Date

Darius Soriano —  October 3, 2013

While his return to full action is still a mystery, Kobe Bryant is back on the court. On Wednesday, he did some “light jogging” and some “set shooting” at Lakers’ practice. This is a big step in Kobe’s continued progress, representing another milestone in his recovery and inching him even closer to that point that everyone is waiting for.

So the biggest question will soon be answered (or at least that seems to be the case). But, in a way, we knew that already. With Kobe himself saying he “shattered” the recovery timeline and the reality that he wasn’t going to miss the entire season, the fact that he’d return at some point early in the season was a good possibility (barring any setbacks, of course). The fact that we’re getting closer is just a matter of things progressing as they should

But just because the biggest question will have resolution at some point, doesn’t mean it’s the only question. Right now Kobe isn’t really a part of camp and that absence is influencing things. Don’t take my word for it, take Pau Gasol’s who said that “it’s definitely different” not having Kobe practicing. And while Pau added that the team will be ready for his return, we can’t just act like that’s a certainty.

At media day, Mike D’Antoni was asked about Kobe’s pending return and said the following:

“We’ve got to develop the team and go without him if he isn’t here the first game,” D’Antoni said. “If he is here the second game then you just plug him in. I still don’t know when it is. Since we still don’t have a timetable, we can’t just wait on him.”

D’Antoni has a potentially difficult road to navigate here. Kobe is still the team’s best player and, with that, the center of the team’s universe. He typically sets the tone and drives the mentality of the team. Plus, beyond that, he has also been the player who has dominated the flow of the game on the offensive side of the ball.

As D’Antoni implies, however, the team must start to forge an identity now and plan as if Kobe will not be there. That means putting the ball in the hands of the team’s other playmakers (namely Steve Nash, Pau Gasol, and, to a lesser extent Jordan Farmar) and starting to formulate an offensive attack that utilizes the skill sets of these players in ways that maximize their production while also lifting the play of the entire team.

When Kobe does return the question then becomes how to integrate him back into that already forming identity and find ways to maximize his play while also continuing to build on the foundation the team is trying to establish without him. How will Kobe adjust? How will his teammates? How will the D’Antoni? Will the solutions mirror what the team did last season when Kobe took on primary ball handling duties and became fulcrum of the team’s offense? Will it take on a different form?

None of these questions have straight forward answers and all will have to be worked through, on the court, with total buy in from every member of the team. One would hope the transition is smooth and the team can, as Gasol said, be ready for his return by hitting the ground running. After all, adding a talent like Kobe Bryant is benefit, not a hindrance. And I’m sure that will be the case in the long run.

But, as the team starts to lay the foundation of the team they will be while Kobe is on the mend, the questions surrounding his return aren’t really about when but about all the things that come with it.

Darius Soriano

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41 responses to Questions About Kobe Go Beyond a Return Date

  1. Kobe leaving the country for treatment…I wonder(as do others)is he taking HGH ??? Maybe that is why he broke down last season…His Doctor in Germany has been mentioned before with HGH…Why go to another country and use a doctor that is not sponsored by the Lakers???

  2. Here’s a link that describes the treatment Kobe has undergone and will, according to this report, undergo again on his trip out of the country. That link speaks to why you’d go out of the country to have this procedure.

  3. gene – HGH is not illegal in the US. It is a controlled substance available via prescription. I don’t see the link Darius posted, but my guess is that he’s going out of the country because the treatment is either not available in the US or the best doctors are outside the US>

  4. The treatment is not legal in the States because the FDA does not permit the use of heated blood being reintroduced into the body. The treatment in the US uses the same chemicals as the one in Europe but the key difference is the blood is not warmed before reintroduction. I don’t know if it’s thought of as a kind of pasteurization or some other treatment. The European version of the FDA permits the reintroduction of heated live blood. So, Kobe goes there for the better treatment that is legal in the region he is being treated in.

  5. I love it. Kobe broke down last year because of HGH, not because he was a 33 year old athlete with thousands of NBA minutes on his resume and 10 times that in time training. An athlete blew out his achilles. Who ever heard of such a thing.

  6. Swaggy P will hold down the fort until Vino gets back!!

  7. P. Ami does that really surprise you coming from gene?

    Kobe won’t be the player that he was pre-injury, obviously, but if he can come back and give the Lakers 85% of what he was then this team could win 45-50 games. I’m actually pretty excited for this season. I have zero expectations and will just enjoy it for the little things. I think I’ll buy tickets for every Laker game in Oakland and Sacramento.

  8. Please come back soon Kobes – you are the only hope.

    D’Antoni has a potentially difficult road to navigate here.” Well – not really – I sort of envy his job security. Nobody is expecting much from the team, so if we miss the playoffs it was because we had no talent. If Kobe comes back late or less than 85%, then – “the reason again this year was that we had too many injuries”. Pau and Nash may even chip in with some injuries of their own (the odds of them both playing 82 are pretty low). If we do well it is all gravy. If the team shows any signs of life – then it will be “well – we are losing – but at least we are scrappy and hustling” . Also – “He deserves a chance with the post 14 FA group”. Many on this board say think I never say anything positive about MD, but that is not true. The man has set himself up well, and I acknowledge true genius when I see it, and MD’s position right now is a no lose situation. Even in the worst case scenario – he still gets paid for another year. It is genius.

    KenOak: D’Antoni is holding Aces (3 year deal), he has a straight draw (if the team actually wins), and Jim has no cards – yet he is “All In”. Jerry Buss (RIP) is somewhere nodding in approval at the Poker expertise being displayed. Some say they would rather be lucky than good. Well (and I am serious) – this is not luck on D’Antoni’s part. He is good.

  9. Gene,
    Take your trolling somewhere else. If this continues, I’ll just ban you. The choice is yours.

  10. This is a golden opportunity for D’Antoni to implement his vision of the offense this Laker team can run. He has known all summer that Kobe would not be back for the start of the season and that leaves him with several players who will work hard to please him. Once Kobe gets back, it will be a change since he will want to get his shot attempts and that will mean significant playing time. Until then, this figures to be a much more mobile team than the one last year.

  11. Baylor Fan,

    I agree entirely. Without Kobe around, the Lakers will be focused almost exclusively on the key elements of D’Antoni’s “system”–spacing, very few dribbles, quick passing (especially around the perimeter), getting into the offense quickly before the defense has a chance to get set, finding the open man within 10 seconds, running whenever feasible, etc.

    Obviously, we’ll miss Kobe over the next several weeks. (I’m guessing he’ll be back around mid-November.) So, without him, the offense will not be Kobe-centric but will emphasize the team aspects of D’Antoni’s system. In that sense, being without Kobe might actually pay off for the team. Without having Kobe to bail them out, the players will have to absorb the system. Also, Steve Nash is going to be much more of a focal point when he’s on the court–Jordan Farmar, too.

    This preseason, as a result, could actually be rather interesting (as interesting as preseasons can get, that is). We’ll see how much they absorb as a team. And we’ll see which players actually answer the call.

  12. Kobe will be Kobe. However, that means he will learn and change some things over this summer. Since he will be integrating into a team that is already establishing its identity, I suspect he will also integrate himself instead of making others change around him. After all, he already knows his game – at least for a couple of months after he returns – will have to be modified in both time on the court and style of play. It stands to reason a player who is as intelligent about playing basketball as he is will begin by doing the things he can more easily do and gradually work on the stuff that is more difficult. That also means he will somewhat fit into what is forming rather than try to change it to fit what he used to do. He may revert to some of his old habits, but I suspect that won’t happen until he has acclimated himself to his new body and the team’s style of play at the time.

    This isn’t a matter of him changing stripes, but of him reading both himself and his teammates. After all, Kobe’s prime directive is to win, not to simply show off – but lose.

  13. Craig W., that’s what i think, too.

    i also think this team looks pretty good this year based on something as unenlightenting as a training camp scrimmage:
    http://www.nba.com/lakers/video/2013/10/03/131003Scrimmagemov-2610156

  14. Darius,

    It is very hard for me to comment on the Lakers this year–not so much for the team (which I sort of like), or the immediate present (it is what it is), but for the future. I don’t see where the Lakers are going–and the conversation is still about Kobe.

    The doctors say that someone with an achilles tendon injury might recover to 70%–and rehabilitation can’t be rushed: 6 months minimum. There are numerous documented medical case examples with basketball players. Then there is Dr. Kobe.

    Kobe seems to intimate he will be playing at a professional level–maybe 85%–sooner than that—and be a significant contributor by November–but not exactly and no promises. I’d be amazed to see him make any contribution this calendar year–and a reduced 70% or less contribution at best during the rest of the season.

    Certainly for now, Pau is the best player on the Lakers. Even if Kobe comes back better than the doctors imagine this season, Pau, not Kobe, will be the best player on the Lakers. It will take some getting used to. Will Mike D figure out how to correctly use Pau (and Kaman/Hill)? If Mike D does, will Kobe fit in? At his reduced skill level–will it matter?

    I partly agree with your analysis, but I see a much much more limited role for Kobe this year than you do–and I’m not sure that Kobe will be able to find his new role at all under these circumstances.

    I really still wish that Kobe had decided to miss this entire year.

  15. The team looks good there, I agree. What I don´t like as much is that Pau and Kaman scrimmage on the same side. Looks like we get a Gasol/Kaman duo in the starting five potentially? Great on offense but a huge gap on defense!

  16. the team looks well organized. i’m going to figure the coaches have a clue, for now. Pau and Kaman are going to have to spend some minutes on the floor together in any case. they might as well work things out a bit now. i’m sure we’re going to be treated to every combination possible during this preseason.

  17. Kobe can adopt to many schemes,he is intelligent and has done so many times be it Triangle,Olympics etc.

    Don’t you worry.

  18. drrayeye,
    Pau is coming off injury too. Lets stop pretending, Kobe at 50% is still the best player on the Lakers. Pau hasn’t shown anything the last 2 years that he is anywhere close to being the best player. Lets wait till he delivers before we proclaim him something he has never been.

  19. mud
    The only thing that you could possibly see from that video is that the editing team can put together a few good plays… I just hope that Nash is full strength because last year he really struggled running the offense. Now, part of that is probably on Howard since he refused to actually set picks for the PnR.

    If Kobe doesn’t lace em up this year, or he is less than 85%, then this team will win 30 games. They will run into the same issue that they had last year which was no one else could bail them out once Nash gets trapped because he can’t beat anyone that guards him.

    Now maybe, just maybe, Swaggy P is the answer and he can efficiently create his own shot- or perhaps Jordan Farmar is that guy. We’ll see. I just pray that drrayeye is wrong because if Pau is our best player, then we are in deeper doodoo than we all thought.

  20. KenOak,

    I hope that I’m wrong, too. Time will tell.

  21. Craig W: excellent post @22:21! Ditto on your proclamation.

    El Lugo: You also make a valid observation.

    Drrayeye: I really miss your input on this site; return more often!

  22. Have to laugh at all the % connected to Kobe. Nobody knows when and with what %. The German trip says that the tendon is ready, and now the knees have to play catch up. I have to believe the tendon was damaged and hampering him at the end of last year before it tore. So now after Germany,better right knee and stronger tendon. I do see a slower pace and more set plays when he returns. Until that time, expect to see Johnson,Williams,and Young to let the 3`s fly in transition.

  23. I hate to keep bringing this dose of reality to Kobe’s injury… But the normal player drops 7 PER points after an Achilles tear. Kobe has been between a 20-23 the last few years. This would put him in the 14-15 range. That’s taking him from all star player to below average NBA player. So let’s get our expectations in order.

  24. The numbers are worse than I thought. In two years after suffering the tear the NBA player loses nine points in PER (half the first year and half the second year). Here is the best write up I’ve read on the achillies tear for an NBA player with an emphasis on Kobe in particular. This is a must read for everyone. I assure you.

    http://deadspin.com/how-an-achilles-tear-affects-nba-players-or-why-kobe-472944871

  25. drrayeye –

    Good post at 11:33pm last night in regards to Kobe’s injury. I just hope, for his own sake and well being, that he’s not rushing his return back to the court. Looking forward to tomorrow night’s exhibition game against The Dubs.

  26. KenOak, with all due respect, i said that the film was unenlightening in the end. the team does look much more organized that the last two years, which is good. if the team plays like those cherry-picked clips, they will be very good. i’d rather have hope. it’s much more fun than trying to bring everyone down like Eyore.

    to all the Negative Nellies, you may be absolutely correct, but if you are Laker fans shouldn’t your hopes and dreams be finding reasons to be wrong about your negativity? what can be won by being correct about doom and gloom predictions? there is no glory in guessing correctly that disaster will occur. there’s nothing that dire warnings can achieve but personal prolonged misery for a fan. it’s better to be miserable after the bad thing has happened rather than months before it potentially happens. this is the team. it’s a fans job to cheer for them. there’s no reason to ignore the problems, but there’s no reason to spend hours agonizing over them and trying to convince others to just give up. that is the job of a troll.

  27. Aaron, Kobe is not the “normal player”. if i’m wrong then i’m wrong, so what?
    the end.

  28. Mud: ” Hope springs eternal in the human breast,” said the immortal bard. Now, evolutionary biology is telling us that we are wired for hope, wired to believe . . . . that’s how we hang in there as a species. That’s why we hang on to our Laker hopes and dreams–it helps us persevere against all odds!

  29. darius: you’re absolutely right that kobe’s return date poses many more questions other than the actual date of return. think i heard kareem abdul jabbar say something to the effect that kobe will not be happy if he’s not 100%. did not elaborate as to why he thought so but that thought alone raises other questions.

    we tend to judge people based on their behavior more so than what we hear and in the case of kobe bryant, based on his recent trip to germany for further rehabilation shortly after his set shot session speaks volumes about his commitment (as if that should ever be questioned) and determination (also should never be questioned) and given his current physical state and age, the questions will continue because we may never know exactly what is or will be 100% kobe bryant.

    the storyline alone reads like a soap opera; with every predictable outcome comes a new twist.

    can hardly wait for what’s next around the corner.

    keep the intrigue alive.

    Go Lakers

  30. @mud Mea Culpa- and you are absolutely right that Kobe is not a normal player. I expect him to come back much better than average.

  31. but if you are Laker fans

    There is no right way to be a fan. I am simply looking at the talent on the roster, and in so doing, I don’t think the team is going to be very good. The general consensus among analysts, observers, and for the gambling types here, Vegas bookmakers, is that this is a 30-35 win team, and I agree with that consensus. Hope and analysis aren’t synonyms.

    Is it possible that I am wrong? Sure, and I hope I am. We will know a lot more after 11 games.

    As far as Kobe, what Aaron said about Howard’s back turned out to be pretty accurate, so I while I hope Kobe comes back pretty strong, I am not optimistic. And again, I hope I’m wrong.

  32. Aaron, Kobe is not Andrew Bynum

  33. still a trianglefan October 4, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    with westbrook’s injury, there’s a little light for the lakers if they play well at the start. a good start will rely more on offense then defense, and given who the coach is, that plays to his advantage. A lot of teams start the season slow, so if the lakers are off and running, they could surprise some people with a few wins and get a little momentum. A good start would take some pressure of kobe and give the lakers a little leverage to make sure he’s healthy. But if there’s any shot of being a threat this year, we’ll need to learn some defense. So let’s hope and pray kurt rambis can instill something that works.

  34. no right way to be a fan?

    fan is short for fanatic. while this doesn’t necessarily mean ignoring reality, it does necessarily mean leading the cheers. it does mean having hope. it does mean supporting the team to the point of insanity. absolutely.

    anyone who cannot go the whole way simply cannot be a fan based on the definition of the word.

    about Dwight’s back problems, his attitude was much more detrimental to his performance than his back.

  35. I wonder if the Germany procedure could also be used to heal his Achilles.

    Aaron – That article was pretty good. But the one person that was as athletically gifted as Kobe was Dominque and he came back pretty well. Also medical science has improved over time. The fact that they did the procedure immediately (or the next day) was huge.

    I’m not sure if Kobe will change his game willingly or be forced to if he loses some of his athleticism. Good thing is we know from last season that he can be a willing faciliator if necessary and maybe he will come back as a 20 and 10 guy and we can start calling him Kobe Nash.

  36. his attitude was much more detrimental to his performance than his back.

    The Lakers’ second half defensive numbers say otherwise. I have run this number before, but again, here is Drew Garrison at SSR on April 12:

    Since the All-Star break the Lakers give up an average of 100.4 points per 100 possessions when Howard is their anchor, but an atrocious 115.8 when he’s off the court.http://www.silverscreenandroll.com/2013/4/4/4181960/lakers-breakdown-video-dwight-howard-defense

    ___________

    As to fandom, it is a purely subjective thing. You have your casual fans, your intense fans, your fairweather fans, your optimists, your pessimists, your fans who like history, your fans who like stats, your fans who want to know about the players as people, your fans who only care about their fantasy teams and on and on. No one gets to make the rules about how to root for one’s team.

  37. the actions in the games say otherwise, regardless of numbers.

    no one ever said that Howard’s back wasn’t an issue.

    no one here, NO ONE knows much, though.

    a casual fan is something that cannot exist, by definition. one cannot be casually a fanatic. Love is extreme. fans can be critical, but that’s only to setup a bigger love affair with the team. there are casual followers of the team, but no casual fans. fairwheather fans are not fans. fairweather is not fanatical. fans do not try to dampen spirits, because that is the antithesis of fandom.

    nothing i have written says anything negative about anyone else or their point of view.

  38. nothing i have written says anything negative about anyone else or their point of view

    If you feel that way, then you might consider ratcheting down the daily lectures and letting people criticize the FO/coach and express opinions about the team’s likely performance level that differ from your own, without the accompanying blow back.

    And I am aware of the dictionary definition of fan. It has little to do with my point.

    As to Howard, if you want to ignore numbers and go with your gut, that’s fine. We will see what happens when the team takes the floor without him and Kobe against high-level NBA competition in a month or so. Like I have said, I hope you’re reading this better than I am, in every aspect, from the FO down to the bench players. But I will be surprised if that is the case.

  39. rr, i don’t have any problem with you personally. when i disagree i speak out, but i rarely speak out directly at you. your opinions are measured and have logic to them. you can also be quite pedantic and tend to lecture others about you opinions. i think that’s fine, as long as Darius does. it’s his show.

    there’s no doubt about the learned analysis. many times that analysis is correct. sometimes vision is obscured by factors not easily quantified. one thing’s for certain, when the season is over many of these issues will be clear.

  40. @Ian, I was wondering the same exact thing as far as the procedure being used on his Achilles as well.

    I think Kobe will return maybe not to 100% but as much as you can for a player that is 35 something years old. I don’t compare him to a Chauncey because he was never overly athletic, I would compare him to a Dominique who had a great year after the injury. Only concern is Kobe being kobe and trying to come back premature for the team and making the recovery longer.

  41. A “Wait til Steve gets back” did not mean a whole lot last year. A “Wait til Kobe gets back” will!