Archives For Kobe

While there’s still no official timeline for Kobe Bryant’s return to the court, we’d thought a ramp up in his workouts while the team was in China was a sign he was progressing well and moving closer to the point where he could begin doing more work in practice. Today, after the Lakers practiced however, Kobe spoke with the media about a variety of topics and it turns out that may not be the case after all:

I’m not a doctor, but the fact that Kobe’s achilles is still tight sounds as though he’s still at the point where he’s working on getting back his full range of motion and gaining flexibility in the tendon. It’s good to know that he’s still running and getting in some set shooting, however.

That said, the season is set to tip off on Tuesday and with today being Thursday, it’s difficult to imagine Kobe playing in that game. After all, Kobe’s not yet fully practiced with the team, hasn’t started full basketball activities, and if he’s not even sprinting yet, it’s not likely he’s anywhere close to being at a conditioning level that’s conducive to playing in an actual contest.

I’m hesitant to ever fully count Kobe out from accomplishing something, but just as it was when he first suffered this injury it was always wishful thinking that he’d be back by opening night. And even though he didn’t outright say it today, you can probably bet he won’t be ready.

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.

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Paul George is twenty-three years old and he’s ready to break out. His progression up to this point has been steady if not remarkable, burgeoning from a hyper-athletic project to one of the league’s most versatile all-stars. In the most marquee of match-ups, PG24 didn’t back down from LeBron James one inch and earned the respect of this generation’s greatest player. It’s natural, really, for Laker fans to be sauntering over George, whose eclectic fashion sense suggests he’s ready for the LA spotlight. And after this season, Paul George’s rookie contract will expire. In an interview over the summer, George expressed that it would be tough to “say no to Kobe, man” because it’d be “playing at home” (George is from Palmdale). In a sense, Paul George and the cap-happy Lakers are a perfect match.

But today, Paul George agreed to the maximum contract extension, a deal that will keep him in the Midwest for another 5-years and pay him a handsome $80 million. His justification was a PR masterpiece, citing loyalty and the ability to win championships in Indiana (he’s right, also. I maintain that if Roy Hibbert is on the floor for the last play in Game 1, Indiana takes the series). But what’s more, I don’t think Paul George has any interest in spending the prime of his career as a second fiddle to a certain Kobe Bean Bryant. He doesn’t want to be a second option, nor should he- dude has superstar written all over him. He doesn’t want to spend crunch time in the corner as a never used decoy to the ever-present Kobe iso. He would, however, jump at the prospect of becoming the face of the Los Angeles Lakers. Problem is, there already is a face of the Los Angeles Lakers, a man whose commitment to stay on top rivals that of a despotic dictator. And this face makes $10 million more per year than anyone else and has been documented in saying that he’s extremely hesitant to accept a drastic pay cut despite his age and the team’s sticky situation.

Let’s pull the band-aid off quick. I’ve bit my tongue countless times the instant before this harsh truth came out, but I’m ready to finally accept reality:

Kobe Bryant is the Lakers’ biggest obstacle in recruiting free agents. And despite the organic rise of the Oklahoma City Thunder (they drafted KD, RussWest, and Harden back-to-back years. Think about that for a second.), landing coveted free agents is the fastest path to competing for championships. Just ask Pat Riley and Micky Arison.

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Happy Birthday Kobe

Darius Soriano —  August 23, 2013

It was 17 summers ago that Jerry West took a chance on a high schooler who had the NBA pedigree and the self confidence to realize those gifts. In the 17 summers that have passed since the Lakers acquired Kobe Bryant from the Charlotte Hornets for the rights to Vlade Divac, the team has celebrated 5 championships and been to the Finals an additional 2 times. As an individual, the accolades, awards, and milestones achieved are too many to rattle off without it seeming like overkill. Needless to say, the gamble has paid off.

Today, Kobe celebrates his 35th birthday. The kid that the Logo drafted has become a man. He’s had his ups and downs on and off the court in the time that he’s been a Laker, twice — once in free agency and once with a trade demand — even coming close to no longer being with the franchise. But here he is, going into his 18th season, still a Laker. And he will, at least if you listen to him and to ownership, retire one.

Only a few fanbases truly understand what it’s like to see a modern franchise icon stay with one team for their entire career. Today, only Kobe, Dirk, and Duncan can claim that honor. As a fan, it’s undeniably special to see and root for one of those guys. There’s a comfort in seeing him suit up every night, run onto that floor, and compete for the team you root for. I’m not sure outsiders can really truly grasp what these guys mean to these fans. They’re the on court pillars of the organization and have them continue to trot out onto the court is a reminder of all that has been accomplished and a flicker of hope that those past glories can be recaptured.

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Money Matters

Darius Soriano —  July 24, 2013

A casual look around the internet reveals a simple truth: more people care about what the Lakers will be doing a year from now than what occurs in the months leading up to that date in 12 months.

Yes, people wonder (and care) about how good the Lakers can be next year, whether or not they should be tanking for a top draft pick, when Kobe will return (and how good he will be when he does), and whether or not Nick Young will shoot a lot (no one actually wonders this, we all know he will). But, even though these are legitimate talking points, the real intrigue around the Lakers is what they will do next summer when they can potentially have a boatload of cap space to chase any free agent who is on the open market.

I say “potentially” because the Lakers’ cap situation isn’t as clean as many have led you to believe. Sure, it’s possible the Lakers can have as much as $50 million in cap space, but that number isn’t exactly real. Nor is it very likely to exist when July 1, 2014 rolls around on your calendar. I’ll let Kurt Helin of Pro Basketball Talk explain:

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Kobe Bryant, Over Time

Darius Soriano —  June 18, 2013

(h/t to Matt Burd for the video)

Kobe has dubbed his comeback from a torn achilles tendon “the last chapter” of his career. In the video above, however, we see that all the chapters which have come before have been pretty special.

For Lakers’ fans, the slogan he’s adopted in his comeback a reminder that Kobe is near the end of his career. But we can only hope he has a few more moments like the ones that have made him into the special player he’s been for the 17 previous years.

Kobe Bryant is one of the most talented players the league has ever seen and he has used his skills to repeatedly reach the mountaintop. Mind you, his basketball skills alone did not suffice in his ascension into the pantheon of greatness. He also had to morph into a leader.

The leadership component often goes unmentioned and even unnoticed. However, its absence typically gets a lot of publicity and becomes an important point of criticism.

Early on his career, Bryant could not be a leader on the Los Angeles Lakers. Within the span of a few months, he went from playing and practicing with high school players to sharing the court with professionals.

While still developing as a teenager, he now was in a working environment with grown men. Thus, Bryant had to evolve as a person before anyone on the Lakers would accept to follow him.

The path was a difficult one. In his early years, he was perceived as selfish. Some on the Lakers felt as though he looked to elevate his status while sabotaging team concepts.

This resulted in a well-documented rift with Shaquille O’Neal. During his stint with the Lakers, O’Neal was the team’s dominant personality and as well as its best player, which in turn made him the team’s leader.

Thus, whenever Bryant strayed form the pack, the onus fell on the big man’s shoulders to bring him back into the fold. Mind you, his methods were often questionable.

The process O’Neal borrowed created friction and animosity at times. Both players eventually figured out which buttons to push with each other on the way to championships, but the uneasiness often loomed in the background.

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“I’ll push myself to exhaustion.”

If there’s one characteristic that defines Kobe Bryant’s career it is the work he has put in to become the player he is. As much as he’s been gifted his physical characteristics and that innate feel for the game that all the greats have, he’s also honed his skills through thousands of hours of hard work and made himself into the player he is. In a way, it’s that drive to be the best and the subsequent work it has inspired that has separated him from many of his contemporaries.

Kobe will need to call on that ethic now more than ever in staring down his latest challenge. His rehabilitation from his torn achilles tendon is the one of, if not the, biggest obstacles he’s faced in his career and in order to come back anywhere near the player he was before before the injury, he’ll need to push himself to levels that I can’t even imagine. Whether he can actually achieve this goal remains an open question, but if there’s one player who we can’t doubt will push himself that extra mile it is Kobe.

After all, his career has been built on putting in that extra time and, as the video shows above, vigorously working to become the player we’ve seen for 17 years.