Archives For Kobe

ESPN Los Angeles’ Dave McMenamin first tweeted out the news that has seemed growingly inevitable as the season wears on- more likely than not, Steve Nash has played his last game this season.

There’s no other way to describe this news other than plain old sad. Nash has worked his tail off to get back to form this season and make due on that increasingly unexplainable contract that pays him upwards of $9 million per season. But when you’re body simply won’t cooperate, there’s nothing you can do.

I was one of the millions of Laker fans who was ecstatic when the news broke on July 4th, 2012 that the team had acquired the two-time MVP. Never in a million years did I expect Nash to function more as a cap-clogger than anything productive on the floor. It’s now a legitimate possibility that the Lakers use the stretch provision on Nash, would could end the future hall-of famers career. By exercising this provision, the Lakers would release Nash and his cap figure would be spread across three years, allowing the Lakers added flexibility to chase free agents.

If Nash has indeed played his last game in purple and gold, his final game tally in two years would be 60. Not what the Lakers had in mind.

Kobe’s in a similar position in the sense of not knowing whether he’ll suit up for another game this year. He’s still weeks away from an evaluation, and if he’s cleared to play then, he’d likely have to have at least a bit of practice time to get him back into game shape. And judging from the 4 games he played in his return from the achilles injury, he wouldn’t be his usual self- at least not at first- when he does make it back onto the court.

All of this injury news bodes well for those Laker fans aboard Team Tank. The Lakers enjoyed probably their best win of the season last night in snapping Portland’s five-game win streak. In Portland. The win was so surprising that it prompted this headline from the LA Times: “Lakers beat Trail Blazers…in Portland…really!” But despite this, and the win over Sacramento where the Lakers caught fiiiiire from three, the upcoming schedule remains brutal- six out of the next eight games are against teams above .500, including two each against the Thunder and Spurs (who are absolutely incredible. Nothing less. Each and every year I count them out, figuring Father Time will eventually prevail. Those who believe the age-old adage that Father Time is undefeated doesn’t know that Gregg Popovich exists. Okay, Spurs rant over).

Without Kobe and Nash for the foreseeable future, the Lakers should return to their losing ways in the next couple weeks. Of the remaining 22 games, 15 come against teams above .500. If you’re rooting for losses, things are working out quite nicely for you- the Lakers’ remaining schedule is brutal and they will be without the production of both Kobe and Nash, however limited that production might be, when they go toe-to-toe with these superior teams.

Right when it seemed the Lakers might turn a corner with a nice road win over the Grizzlies, their injury woes come back to drag them back down. Already missing all their point guards, the team will now be without Kobe Bryant for at least 6 weeks, per an announcement from the team:

It’s really difficult to put into words the frustration and disappointment I feel with this news. Kobe has battled for over 8 months to return from one of the most brutal injuries a basketball player could sustain and had only returned 6 games ago. He’s had his up and down moments, but the game against the Grizzlies showed a nice step forward in his progress showing he could play well in extended minutes and on short rest (that was the team’s 4th game in 5 nights). Now, he’s lost again for at least another month and a half, set to have to rehab the same left leg he suffered the ruptured achilles on.

Normally, I’d try to find some sort of silver lining and speak to what the team can do to adjust without Kobe in the lineup. This won’t be one of those times. Because while one might say the team can go back to playing the style they were before Kobe’s return, that really isn’t possible since the team doesn’t have a player to step in and initiate the offense the way that Blake and Farmar were in Kobe’s absence. What will happen instead is the team trying to fill the void with a committee approach to initiating the offense with Xavier Henry, Nick Young, and Jodie Meeks likely taking turns as the primary ball handler to start the team’s offense. This approach was already suspect for short stretches in games, but now that it’s default for entire contests, the results will be dodgy at best.

Hopefully Jordan Farmar can return in a week and at least have some sort of PG available soon, but if that doesn’t happen I don’t see how the team can’t turn to the D-League or look to street free agents as a stopgap option until Farmar is back.

As we discussed last night, Kobe had an okay outing in his season debut showing flashes of the playmaking the Lakers need from him while also having several moments where he was sloppy with the ball and looked out of sorts with his decision making. This was to be expected as he seeks to regain the timing and game legs that will allow him to do more on the court.

The timing, of course, should come back with more game reps. It’s hard to go from practice to game action, especially after being out as long as Kobe has, and find your groove immediately. The activity players show in games and the quickness in how they move and react simply can’t be duplicated in practice — even in scrimmages.

The game legs, however, may be a different story. Kobe is attempting to come back from the type of lower leg injury that used to end players’ careers entirely. Medicine and training techniques have advanced so seeing him back on the court isn’t a surprise, but whether or not he can regain a level of explosiveness in his movement that comes close to approximating what he had pre-achilles tear is something we don’t yet know the answer to.

What may help Kobe get there, though, is dropping a few of the extra pounds he’s carrying around. Don’t take my word for it, however, take his:

When looking at Kobe last night, I must admit he did look a little bit bigger than normal. It was nothing outrageous, but it was noticeable.

At the Lakers’ official site, Kobe is listed at 205 pounds and while that’s probably not entirely accurate — player weights can fluctuate while players often get listed at the same weight from season to season even if that’s the case — the fact that he admitted to being a full 20 pounds over his listed playing weight should be a bit of a concern. Not a big one, but one that is worth noting as one of the factors that may contribute to how he’s able to perform physically — especially in areas that relate to quickness and agility.

It’s not like Kobe was awful in those areas last night. In fact, on several plays he looked just fine and after the game he noted how he was pleased with how he was able to get into the lane in his first game back. That said, he also noted that he could stand to lose a few pounds. I’m sure once the latter occurs, the former will get even better. All of this takes time, however.

How much, of course, remains one of the major keys to Kobe (and the Lakers’) season.

The bad news is that Kobe will not play in Friday’s game versus the Kings. When he announced the release of his new kicks, he also broke it to the press that he had ruled himself out for a return in Sacramento.

The good news, however, is that Kobe practiced today for the 3rd consecutive day and had no limitations. Further good news is that while he acknowledges there are still things for him to shore up physically, he also says (in the video above) that he is moving to the point where he is more day-to-day and game-to-game than he is forecasting a return at some point in the distant future.

The possibility is quite real that he returns against the Raptors on Sunday to make his season debut in front of his home crowd and against the franchise he had one of his greatest career accomplishments ever. It would be a fitting return if Kobe could make his first appearance of the season at Staples in a more than winnable game. It would also help if he got back sooner rather than later considering the back court injuries the team is dealing with.

In any event, enjoy the clip at the top of this post. Kobe talks about his injury, his path of recovery, what motivates him today, and what he plans to give on the floor in his final 2+ seasons (hint: everything he has).

While we wait for Kobe Bryant to step onto the court to play a game (more on this later), he gave people a chance to see what he will be wearing on his feet when he finally does.

At an event in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Kobe unveiled his new signature shoe the Kobe 9 designed by Nike. From the press release:

The KOBE 9 Elite redefines the aesthetics and performance of a basketball shoe and was designed using Nike Flyknit according to Nike’s “Nature Amplified” design ethos, an approach focused on designing for the body in motion and fueled by scientific data and athlete insights.

Designed with Kobe’s tech insights and design inspirations, the KOBE 9 Elite features three key technologies: Nike Flyknit, Flywire and Lunarlon, giving the shoe superior lightweight performance. The innovative design enhances the foot’s natural movements while providing Kobe with strength, durability and speed, plus all the benefits of natural motion where he needs it most.

Kobe added:

“I draw inspiration from where I am as a player, as a person, and where my career is at this moment.  I’m trying to do something that the majority of people think is impossible to do,” Kobe reflected when asked about the inspiration for his latest shoes and about getting back into the game. “I let my emotions out when I step on the basketball floor, it’s always been my escape, and these shoes will touch a nerve on the court in the same way I do.”

In terms of the design, these shoes definitely have a personal touch with details that draw on Kobe’s recent experiences:

Reverting back to a higher cut for the first time since his third signature shoe in 2007, Kobe’s ninth signature shoe features a knit collar for the proprioceptive feel of a low-top with the support of a mid-top. With the lead colorway dubbed ‘Masterpiece,’ the KOBE 9 Elite uses the intriguing visual patterns allowed by Nike Flyknit to create a piece of art on the upper, nine red embroidered details on the heel give a nod to Kobe’s Achilles sutures. The design on the outsole is based on the pressure mapping of Kobe’s own foot, creating a beautiful pattern while providing traction on court.

The fact that Kobe has gone back to a more traditional high-top (and its extra support) shouldn’t be a surprise with him coming off his achilles injury. That said, Kobe also gave a nod to boxer Manny Pacquiao and the shoes boxers wear for the high support design and credited the materials used (specifically flyknit) for being able to pull off this type of design in a basketball shoe. I, for one, am very much interested in seeing how these feel to play in and what type of support they provide. Based off Kobe’s previous shoes, he seems to have kept a similar aesthetic but gone for an overall design that pushes the envelope forward.

The release for the shoe for sale is February 8th, next year. Pictures are below:

Kobe 9

Kobe 9

Kobe 9