To call the time between August-September a hotbed of NBA news would be a gross understatement (things like this are making headlines). Nevertheless, the Lakers continue to make minor roster additions as training camp nears and their most recent acquisition is 32-year old Brazlian point guard Marcelo Huertas. Darius covered the Huertas signing here, but as we did with the signings of Holmes and Fraizer, we offer a bit of background on the newest Laker. The following excerpt is from a July piece by Kirk Henderson of Mavs Moneyball:
Archives For Kobe
We are deep into the doldrums of the NBA Summer. We’re a month past summer league and have a month to go until training camps open. This part of the year is the off-season version of a mid-Wednesday night game in the beginning of March. What better time, then, for a nice big list of rankings for NBA players?
Sports Illustrated has obliged us fans and kicked off their annual Top 100 for the upcoming season. You can find their list of players 100-51 here.
Anytime this list (or one like it) is released, Lakers’ fans look for one name: Kobe Bryant. Many do this just to see how upset they can get — I mean, Kobe might do this too — as they find the right amount of outrage in response to where the pundits have placed him in contrast to his peers.
Well, this year, Kobe has come in slotted in spot #54. Here, Ben Golliver, explains the ranking:
Jim Buss sat down with Eric Pincus of the LA Times for a wide ranging interview on Thursday and provided plenty of insight on all things Lakers. Pincus’ entire interview is well worth your time as the Lakers’ part-owner and top executive on the basketball side takes us behind the curtain on where his mindset is heading into a critical season in the team’s rebuild.
And while Buss’ thoughts on D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, and more deserve your attention, the most intriguing part of their discussion, at least for me, relates to none other than Kobe Bryant, his future with the team, and whether this upcoming season may be the superstar’s last:
“We’re going to approach it like it is, but that doesn’t mean it is,” Buss said of Bryant. “I’m not going to sit there and say, ‘This is it, Kobe, you’re done,’ because it’s not my decision, it’s his decision.”
While this seems like the politic answer, Buss does elaborate further:
So is this Bryant’s final year with the team? “My arms are like this,” Buss said, holding his arms wide open, about Bryant’s future.
“He just has to know, at that age, and that many miles on you, what is your role? We’ll explain the role, and if he still wants to do that and that’s how he wants to go out, that’s fine with me.”
This is the first time anyone within the Lakers’ organization has ever even hinted at there being any sort of conditions for Kobe returning or that he might need to accept a reduced role if he does want to return. And, frankly, it’s good to hear the organization is taking this approach.
I often think about the Kobe, Pau, Steve Nash, and Dwight Howard Lakers’ team within the context of “what if’s”. What if Nash doesn’t break his leg? What if Dwight doesn’t come back so early from back surgery? What if Mike Brown never decides to implement the Princeton Offense? What if Kobe never blows out his achilles? What if, what if, what if.
But, while that team is the most recent example of this, it’s not the one which weighs heaviest on my memory. No, that would be the Shaq/Kobe Lakers and the “what if Shaq and Kobe could have buried the hatchet and just gotten along?”
Sadly, we’ll never know the answer to this question. And while both players ended up doing just fine in the years following — Shaq got a 4th championship with the Heat 2006 and Kobe won back to back championships in 2009 and 2010 — the question still nags at me every once in a while.
Yesterday Kobe announced he had returned to the court to shoot for the first time since having surgery to repair his torn rotator cuff. Today, Kobe celebrates his 37th birthday. I have a feeling before he finds his way to a slice of cake and some gifts to unwrap, he’ll also find his way to a gym to get up more shots. This, more than anything, would seem like be the Kobe thing to do.
When training camp opens in the next month or so, it will be the beginning of his 20th season in the league. Twenty. Years. I get tired just thinking of this number, knowing the day-in, day-out work that’s gone into making him the player he’s been over that period.
Kobe’s greatest legacy, for me at least, isn’t the championship rings. It’s not his status as one the game’s all-time best players. For me, Kobe’s legacy is, despite his wonderful physical gifts and his bloodlines tying him to the league, how he maximized all that talent to reach his ceiling as a player. One can argue if he could have done things differently or played a different way, but one cannot argue he got the most out of his ability to become the most skilled version of himself he could become.
Kobe Bryant last played a competitive basketball game on January 21st against the Pelicans. In that game he had the ball deep in the right corner, drove baseline after facing some tight pressure defense, and threw down a two handed dunk:
On that play, Kobe exacerbated an already sore shoulder, tearing his rotator cuff. While he would play a few more possessions — attempting shots with his left hand — he would ultimately leave the court and not play another game for the rest of the season.
Since then Kobe has been recovering from surgery to repair his injured shoulder and has been pretty quiet as to what progress he was making. Well, that silence has been lifted with a post on instagram:
This is great news for Kobe and for Lakers’ fans. With a little bit more than two months until the Lakers’ regular season begins, this should allow Kobe to ramp up his training and be ready for what will be his 20th and, potentially, final campaign.