Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Kobe is Kobe, we know, but he just blew out an Achilles. What can we expect out of him? When can we expect it?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I’m thinking 22 ppg and about 48 games for the Mamba, mostly from January on. Bryant might be a medical marvel and certainly surgical and rehab techniques are radically better than even five or 10 years ago. As a not-so-patient patient, Bryant figures to be the anti-Derrick Rose, rushing back to the court ASAP at the far end of his career. Given all that, though, this tendon is called the Achilles for a reason – it was and is a pretty big deal. If Bryant thumbs his nose entirely at the traditional recovery time, he won’t just end up in medical journals, he’ll be rewriting Greek mythology.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: You just answered your own question. Kobe is Kobe. Few in the history of the league have had his drive, his determination, his rip-your-heart-out-and-eat-it competitiveness. Go ahead, doubt him if you will. I’m not. He’ll be back to his old self sometime after the All-Star break, because, well, Kobe is Kobe.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: I’m not a doctor and I don’t play one on the Internet. I mean who knows? Every bit of info coming from Kobe is that his rehab is way ahead of schedule. I think it would be foolish of him to rush back to make opening night if he’s truly not ready, and I’m not sure if you can truly trust Kobe to make the right call. Lakers longtime trainer Gary Vitti might have to tie him down in the locker room if that’s what it takes. At 35, can Kobe come back full steam ahead? I have no idea. But I do know that if anyone can, Kobe can.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: I expect that he will defy the odds of when he returns. But I also expect that he will be a 35 year old coming off a major injury after already conceding he was in a losing battle with Father Time. The return will be in November, probably on the early side, followed by a process that probably includes minutes restrictions and possibly limitations on back-to-backs for a while. Then, Kobe will be good on will alone. Maybe not 2012-13 good. But still good enough to make a big impact and give a disgusted head shake to anyone who made the mistake of counting him out.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I expect him to exceed whatever the normal expectation is for someone coming off Achilles surgery and to play at a level that is not reasonable for almost any other player of his ilk, and that’s due mostly to the fact that his recovery seems to be progressing at a rate that makes no sense. It’s Kobe, for Naismith’s sake. You know he’s not going to let this Achilles injury finish him off. I know there has been talk of making a miraculous recovery and being back in time for training camp but even Kobe has some limitations. I suspect he’ll be ready for full contact action by Thanksgiving and ready to resume his regular duties running the Lakers (on and off the court) by Christmas. Feliz Navidad Lakers fans.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: How’s this for a bold prediction: Kobe plays 82 games, averages 24 points per game, and the Lakers make it to the playoffs. OK, so that may be an outlandish prediction, but I don’t think we can ever set the standards too low for Kobe. He has made clear that he strives for perfection, and we know that applies to his injury rehab as well as his play. My prediction is unlikely, sure. But I learned long ago that if you’re going to count on anyone, count on Kobe.
Akshay Manwani, NBA India: He’ll be back, at training camp, for sure. This is the Mamba we’re talking about. If he has to will himself through a wall, Kobe will do it. And I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t average 25-plus points right through the season and remain among the elite scorers in the league in 2013-14. Whether the Lakers will be better, even with Kobe tuning in at an All-Star level, is, however, another question altogether.
Davide Chinellato, NBA Italia: It’s Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest competitor ever, we’re talking about here. He’s a man on a mission: showing the world he’s still Kobe Bryant, one of the best player ever. And that’s exactly what I expect him to do. I think he’ll be on the court when the Lakers will face the Clippers on opening night, even if he’ll probably play limited minutes. But I expect him back to his usual Black Mamba (or Vino) form by the end of November. He’s Kobe, after all