Summer Dreaming: Comeback Player

HANG TIME, Texas — Officially, the NBA has not recognized a Comeback Player of the Year since the 1984-85 season.

But these are the dog days of August, this is just an exercise in summer daydreaming and that means, well, we can pretty much do whatever we want.

Besides, it’s so rare that we have so many big name players on the mend, several with a chip on their shoulder and something to prove.

So grab a seat in the shade and let’s run my top candidates for a make-believer honor — the 2013-14 Comeback Player of the Year:

Kobe Bryant, Lakers — Yes, it’s still all speculation at this point, and even Bryant has said that he’s not sure he’ll be ready yet for opening night. But if, at 35, he somehow gets back onto the court less than a year after tearing his Achilles’ tendon and manages to come close to being the beast of his former self, Kobe will have eclipsed Adrian Peterson as a modern medical marvel and raised his already considerable legacy way past Michael Jordan‘s “flu game.”

Dwight Howard, Rockets — Can a guy who averaged 17.1 points and led the league in rebounding (12.4 rpg) last season really be considered a comeback candidate? He can if he’s this guy, who could only have taken more abuse if he’d played every game with a “Kick Me” sign taped to the back of his jersey. A return from back surgery and an in-season shoulder injury contributed to Howard’s lost season in L.A. A healthy and happy season in Houston could produce fireworks.

Derrick Rose, Bulls — He hasn’t played in an NBA game since April 28, 2012 and he may not return immediately to his old MVP form on opening night. But there are reasons to expect that Rose will want to use this season to make a loud statement about himself as a competitor and warrior. First of all, he is both of those things. Second, he heard all the sideline critics complain that he was soft or afraid or something less than a team player by not returning at the end of last season. If anyone has a point to prove about who he is, it’s Rose.

Kevin Love, Timberwolves — Flip the calendar back 12 months and there was so much for Love to anticipate in the year ahead, especially coming off his success at the World Championship. Not the broken right hand in training camp. Not breaking it again in January. Not the surgery on his left knee that ended any chance of a late return. Love averaged 18.3 points and 14 rebounds in the 18 games he played. Teammates Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic, Andrei Kirilenko, Brandon Roy and Chase Budinger all suffered injuries in a lost season for the Wolves. Now it’s Love who’s champing at the bit to lead the comeback that could get Minnesota into the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

Rajon Rondo, Celtics — When he gets back out onto the court, should we start calling him “Domino?” After all, think of all the dominoes that fell after he tore his ACL and had to be shut down for the season in January? That’s the way former teammate Paul Pierce views it. Rondo’s injury ended the Celtics’ real hopes of being playoff contenders or at least spoilers. Rondo’s injury likely led to the trading of Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to the Nets. Rondo’s injury led to coach Doc Rivers wanting out of a rebuilding project. Rondo’s injury brought rookie coach Brad Stevens to Boston. Now Rondo gets to be the big dog who runs his own show and there’s no doubt he’ll bark loud.

Danny Granger, Pacers — On a team that already pushed the Heat to a seventh game in the Eastern Conference finals and is feeling more confident from the experience, how much of a boost could they get if the former All-Star forward can return to form? Granger played only five games last season after having surgery for patellar tendinosis. He said he expects to be back in the starting lineup. But even if he winds up coming off the bench, a Pacers team that sometimes had trouble putting points on the board will welcome the help.

Russell Westbrook, Thunder — Sure, it happened in the playoffs. Sure, he had never missed a single game in his NBA career until that night when he had the run-in with the Rockets’ Patrick Beverley. That doesn’t make it any less significant. The loss of Westbrook ended any real hope of the Thunder getting back to The Finals and maybe it quieted some of the carping complainers who love nothing more than to pick at the flaws in his game. Will the torn meniscus slow down any of his freakishly physical play or seemingly superhuman sorties to the rim? Doubt it.

Anderson Varejao, Cavaliers — With all the attention focused on free agent Andrew Bynum and No. 1 draft pick Anthony Bennett, the return of Varejao to the Cleveland lineup could be just as critical at making a run at the playoffs. The 30-year-old was averaging career highs of 14.1 points and 14.4 rebounds in 25 games last season before tearing a quadriceps muscle in January and then requiring further surgery when a blood clot developed in his lung. Coach Mike Brown says the perpetual motion machine might start at power forward and that could get him back to making a run at his first All-Star berth.

Andrew Bynum, Cavaliers — If any player ever needed a comeback, it’s the big man who was a key part in the four-team trade between the Lakers, Magic, Nuggets and Sixers in the summer of 2012. Those chronic knee problems that had always made his future a big question mark in L.A. kept him on the sidelines but not out of the limelight all last season in Philly. He showed off flashy hairstyles. He went bowling. He just didn’t play. Now that Jan. 7 cutoff date to be on the Cavs roster that guarantees the other half of this season’s $12.25 million contract should be some real motivation.

PREVIOUSLY: MVP | Coach of the Year | Sixth Man of the Year | Defensive Player of Year | Most Improved Player | Rookie Of Year


  1. Jack says:

    Derrick Rose. After missing a whole season, he is finally healthy and now we will see him do amazing in Chicago. No doubt, Rose for sure

  2. Shawn says:

    Kobe will work very hard, and is a strong candidate, but i he is still only human. no doubt Derrick Rose will come back strong, but i cant give him the title because he was cleared to play before the playoffs last year. so my vote is Westbrooke.

  3. Beedo360 says:

    Greg Oden isn’t gone to make a difference for Miami they got rid of the person that actually help them win and that was mike miller they better hope Norris cole can fill in that role cause I don’t see Miami winning this year

  4. ko0kiE says:

    I’ll go with Rajon Rondo.. now we get to see how good he really is.

  5. Pedro says:

    Rose: 2 months into the season and he’ll be a beast again
    Dwight: another season being a non-factor on offense
    Love: will be back even better
    Kobe: will resume his 25-5-5 game
    Bynum: will not play at all

  6. Jasper Reyes says:

    KOBE !!! KOBE !!! KOBE !!!! The BEST !!!

  7. Jasper Reyes says:

    KOBE !!! KOBE !!! KOBE !!!!

  8. thegloveinrapsuniform says:

    Why isnt Rudy Gay here?

    Canada gets no love for this american snot nosed columnists

  9. kobe ballhog says:

    Kobe will be a bust, Howard will be a monster, Derrick will be back to his old form, Granger will be beneficial to the pacers, Love will again be the monster in the boards, rondo will be a reliable PG, Varejao will be full of energy again, Bynum will be a slouch, Westbrook will still play above the rim, so in all Kobe = Bynum = Retirement.

    • Jacob says:

      Kobe a bust lmao where did that come from even if he doesnt come back hes still AT LEAST a top 15 player to ever play foollllll

  10. J says:

    comeback player of the year would be a great award

  11. J says:

    rose will come back swinging and he’ll be a beast

    kobe will be back and dominate like the black mamba can

    rondo will get traded but not cause he will play bad he will be as good as ever prob better with paul and KG gone his point totals
    will go up by 5 or so

    D12 will get like 25 points and 15 reb and make sure we all know he is the best C in the nba

    kevin love will be best rebounder in nba no question

    granger will really really help the pacers, he better start

    oden will be a 10 and10 guy if he starts and prob block bout 2.5 shots

    I hope westbrook’s numbers don’t decline

    I think Anderson verajao would have been and all star last season but this season he wont cause there is more talent with Bynum, jack and others

    and finally, Bynum will be an all star centre for years to come and prob second best centre in the league

  12. I_long says:

    Oden, Gallinari and even Bargnani are missing.

  13. J says:

    there’s more summer dreaming articles?!?!?!?!? well that my friend is awesome!

  14. Lakers-Warriors-Suns. says:

    … Derrick Rose… Obviously or Rondo…

  15. you are all ... says:

    Kobe at 35, doing his Achilles and barely making the playoffs

    Jordan at 35, MVP, Finals MVP, All-star MVP another ring making that 6, and the scoring title

    and you nuts still want to make a comparison?

    shame shame

    • Tim says:

      You can’t really compare Jordan at 35 vs Kobe at 35. Kobe 35 would be like Jordan at 39. Kobe came in 4 years earlier. Reason why I dislikes when people said Derrick Rose youngest, Lebron youngest to reach certain mile stone. I would like NBA to start saying. Lebron, Rose, Durant reach certain milestone in the shortest time not youngest.

      I’m Jordan and Rose fan but I dislikes when people use that sort of comparison. 18yr old will have 4 years head start over player that went to college for 3-4 years. Or else add in those lost years for Jordan, Magic, Bird, etc and the number is way different.

      • Ramnale says:

        True, also Jordan had to drive the ball into the greatest centers and power forwards in the NBA. Now days the best player on almost all the teams is a guard or small forwards because there are no bigs that change the outcome of a game, Mutombo/Ewing/Olajuwon/ Barkley/Malone/Robinson/

    • Jimmy Buckets says:

      Right on!

  16. For such a major topic, the return of major players to NBA arenas this upcoming season, seemingly has been flying beneath the radar, so to speak. Thank you for the shedding light.

  17. Explorer says:

    Oden could be tested as role player but somehow if he works well into the system he will be an ALL STAR..

  18. Take no notice says:

    @Random Guy. Not to mention that Peterson also tore his mcl

  19. Jimmy Buckets says:

    Kobe is DONE…he can talk all he wants but HE WILL NOT COME BACK THE SAME PLAYER! He will try to comeback early to feed his ego hurt it again and his career will be OVER. But what will happen after that is LA can finally bring in new superstars… bet is Westbrook and Love.

  20. dhunter says:

    Also I think Oden isn’t on this list because he isn’t majorly important to the Heat championship contention (not at this point at least). there’s no pressure on him to perform at a high level.

  21. dhunter says:

    Wayyyyyyy too far with the Kobe love. You can compare Kobe to Jordan or whatever, cause that’s a matter of opinion, but to say it eclipses Peterson is absurd. Peterson plays a position that lack longevity, and once a serious knee issue occurs your career is over (at the very least you are never ever the same). Yet Peterson came back and not only excelled, but elevated his already lofty play. And as for the mental fortitude, Kobe could have torn both his achilles and still play in the NBA as a perimeter shooter, that doesn’t wear on your mentality. He’s still gonna be the same person when he comes back.

  22. Kimmy says:

    1. Rose
    2. Bynum
    3. Howard
    4. Westbrook

    Without a full comeback from these players, their teams are just plain lights out. As far as Love, Kobe,Rondo and Oden go, their comeback is irrelevant; their teams were are already losing (or in the case of the Heat, winning) regardless.

  23. realize this says:

    Galinari is missing.

    • “Realize this” does bring up a great point. The ommission of Danilo Gallinari is huge. His absence in playoffs probably helped to get George Karl fired (in the long run). Not a deal-breaker though. Still a great article

  24. David Leroy says:

    What about Lou Williams! He will be very critical for the Hawks to recover

  25. Jimmy jazz says:

    Andrew Bogut, he’ll be a double/double machine this year and contend for DPOY

    • JeffX says:

      Was starting to look really good for the bucks when the Kendrick (celtcis then) incident happened. Would love to see him back to that level this year. He can be a real pain in the paint if he does!

  26. Stacy Manning says:

    Derrick Rose has got to be the most heavily anticipated come-back. He is an amazing leader and ball player. He is more goal oriented because he is ONE of the greats and didn’t let a short term injury affect his long term career! I cannot wait to see him back on the court with his teammates!

  27. DAVID GRANT says:


  28. RJCN says:

    ”Kobe will have eclipsed Adrian Peterson as a modern medical marvel and raised his already considerable legacy way past Michael Jordan‘s “flu game.”


    Mr. Blinebury, really?

    • Nick says:

      Yes, really. If Kobe does what Fran outlined, he will be the only player ever to do so. The mental fortitude it requires to even play at the NBA level. let alone the “Kobe level”, after such a serious injury easily eclipses playing with the flu.

      • Tudor Stanescu says:

        First, lets not compare Kobe to Jordan. Secondly, yes REALLY? Was Kobe’s injury and return just compared to AP? It is not even on the same level. What AP did is absurd, unreal, and defies all logic.

      • Random Guy says:

        @Tudor nobody compared Kobe and Jordan. What’s compared is the “FLU GAME” and the actual comeback from an Achilles Tear injury. And secondly, try to factor in the age of Kobe and Adrian Peterson. Peterson was 26 or 27 when he tore his ACL. Kobe is like, what uhm, 35? And IMO, an Achilles Tear is much more brutal than a Tore ACL. It takes a lot out of your foot.

      • Ramnale says:

        U mean, if Kobe comes back and continues to be a ball hogger, then he’ll be back to the kobe we all know. Lmfao

    • marty says:

      Hey I was thinking the same thing.He had to say this for a reaction.I don’t get the comparison to MJ or AP’s return from injury at all..HYPERBOLE & SENSATIONALISM AT ITS FINEST!!

  29. skur says:

    Danny Granger?!

  30. matthew mathis says:

    I think if kobe gets 100% healthy and pau, nash and a few role players step up it will be kobe’s comeback year.

  31. Good Long shot says:

    Yeah!!! Why is Greg Oden missing!!

  32. Long shot says:

    Greg Oden