Archives For Kobe

Yesterday I had a pretty pessimistic take on Kobe Bryant playing in Wednesday’s season opener. After it was revealed he’d again not practiced, opting instead to “get some shots up” and receive treatment there seemed to be too little progress made in the last 10 days for me to feel comfortable about him being available in three days.

Well, Sunday proved to be a big step forward for Kobe and, it seems, for him being available for the season’s first game.

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After Jordan Clarkson left Thursday’s game with a shoulder injury, it was easy to think the worst. While he said he thought the injury was “minor” he also noted there was a sharp pain and intimated his shoulder had popped out. Further, his head coach was saying Clarkson might not play in the season opener which was, at the time, still nearly a week away.

Thankfully Clarkson’s MRI came back normal and he was said to be “day to day” with a “sore” shoulder. That first bit of good news settled everyone down, but today’s news is even better.

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Considering I run a Lakers’ site, it’s probably a bit strange I write so little about Kobe Bryant. Sure, he gets mentioned in game previews and recaps (like Thursday night’s) or an occasional analysis piece, but singling him out for a long form post on whatever relevant topic isn’t something I do very often.

Maybe it’s because after 20 years there’s little new to say. Or maybe it’s just because, after 20 years of Kobe being Kobe — and all that comes with that — I have tired of the hot takes, brush back, manic praise, and furious head nodding that comes from anything written about the man.

Kobe is an interesting subject to discuss, however. When done thoughtfully — or even when it’s not — it drives conversation and allows zealots, haters, and everyone in between a chance to speak their mind on the man who, more so than any great player I can recall, is so polarizing.

I bring all this up because this week was when Kobe’s #NBARank was disclosed on ESPN. He came in at 93 and…well, who cares. I don’t. My take can be summarized here in three simple tweets and that’s basically all I have to say on that.

The more interesting thing that came out of this Kobe discussion, for me at least, was a companion piece to the ranking, written by ESPN’s Baxter Holmes. Holmes revealed the “first in a series on how league insiders view the Lakers’ rebuild” which was focused on Kobe and how he’s viewed*.

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We can all see the finish line. It grows closer by the second, presenting itself as the end of an organizational epoch, the end of a relationship. The finish line’s visibility isn’t new, but only now is there a discernible level of tangibility, only now does it feel real. While it is tough to sway attention from this particular verisimilitude, the end of Kobe Bryant’s career shouldn’t be the full focus of his 20th season.

While it’s easy to tumble down the rabbit hole of what Bryant’s retirement means for this season, there are still at least 82 Lakers basketball games between now and when that ostensibly becomes a real thing. And within each of the remaining games left on Kobe’s ticket, there will be hundreds upon thousands of individual moments – some big, some small – for us to hang our hats on and discuss. It’s those singular moments that have captivated us for the last 19 years, and it’s those individual moments that will make this season memorable.

This iteration of the Lakers is fascinating on many levels. There hasn’t been an organizational influx of youth since the beginning of Bryant’s career, and that influx is infused with a collection of veterans who have something to prove – and Bryant is among those who is set on playing above preseason expectations. The last thousand days are – literally – marred because of injury, but between surgeries and rehabilitation, we’ve seen flashes of what makes him great, flashes that bespoke the acumen of his brilliance.

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(photo credit: NBC Los Angeles)

As we wrote yesterday, media day is mostly a circus. And when you’re Kobe Bryant, heading into your 20th season, coming off three straight years of season ending injuries, and playing on a newly constructed team where as many as five players (by my count, at least) will be rookies, the circus wants your take on it all.

This is, pretty much, the summary of media day. Kobe, engulfed by a media scrum, speaking on everything from how he feels physically to the prospect of this being his last season to his Lakers’ allegiance to getting this new team on the same page to, well, whatever other topic you can think of about this upcoming season. Kobe, as he has in recent years, provided honest insight, honest push-back, and an honest reflection of where he’s been, is, and wants to go.

With that, let’s get to the links of the day, starting with, you guessed it, words on Kobe Bryant…

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I don’t know if it is like this for Bulls’ fans, but Phil Jackson will always be that dude for a lot of Lakers fans. His two stints as Lakers’ coach led to seven trips to the NBA Finals and five Larry O’Brien trophies. It’s not that the man can never do wrong, it’s just that, when he does, it’s almost immediately written off or shrugged away because his history of doing so much right overwhelms it.

Basically, Phil being Phil has a way of being the overriding sentiment whenever he might do or say something Lakers’ fans might get really upset about if it were someone else saying it. His ties to the organization — not only as a former coach, but as the team governor’s/part owner’s fiancé — only add to this familial quality he possesses.

What does this have to do with anything? Well, as we all know, Phil has always had a way of just saying things to the press that don’t always fly so well with any number of listeners. And today, when talking to the NY Press in advance of the Knicks’ opening training camp, he was back at it, this time regarding Kobe Byrant and his future with the Lakers.

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Byron Scott had a rough first year in his dream job. In the process of accumulating the most losses by any Lakers’ team ever, Scott took hits from fans and media alike for antiquated takes on analytics and general basketball philosophy. But there may not have been any topic in which Scott took more grief — and felt more guilt — than his handling of Kobe Bryant.

After a training camp that saw the then 19 year veteran win conditioning drills and exceed expectations in practice sessions, Scott proceeded to ride Kobe hard once the real games started. Kobe consistently saw heavy minute loads — many times playing entire first quarters and eclipsing 35 minute totals — and physically suffered for it. Game after game, too many possessions showed a player looking all of his 36 years with over 50K minutes on his odometer.

By the time Scott finally seemed to realize the error of his ways and started to adjust Kobe’s workload downward, it was pretty much too late. A shoulder injury — which, to be fair, may or may not have had anything to do with any sort of overuse — ended Kobe’s season and that was that. After the injury Byron admitted he overworked his star, but as they say hindsight is 20/20.

A new year is nearly upon us now and Kobe has been fully cleared for all basketball activities a little less than two weeks before training camp. To his credit, Scott has seemingly learned his lessons and will treat the player he mentored 20 years ago differently than he did last year at this time.

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Last month, Kobe Bryant started shooting for the first time since surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff prematurely ended his season. Last week, Mitch Kupchak updated us that Kobe was on track to be ready for the start of training camp.

Well, today, Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding is telling us Kobe is, in fact, all the way the back:

Bryant’s recovery from his latest devastating late-career injury, a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, is complete—and he currently has no physical limitations as he gears up for what he expects will be his final NBA season.

Bryant has been medically cleared for all basketball activities, according to league sources.

Though, via the previous updates mentioned, this was totally expected it does not make the news any less important. Kobe’s health has been the major storyline over the past three seasons and to finally have him back healthy is a plus for a team looking to make more noise than anyone really thinks they can.

Any success this team has will be, in a major way, still influenced by how well #24 can play and lead a team that has been constructed, at least partially, around him and what he can still provide. Add to the equation this potentially being his final season and the combination of hope with nostalgia brew a potent cocktail Lakers’ fans are ready to throw down.

The questions about what Kobe will be able to provide and whether he can remain healthy will always be present this season, but, at least for now, he’s back and ready to go. Camp can’t get here soon enough.