Lakers Grind While Waiting On Kobe




VIDEO: Rick Fox sits down for an in-depth interview with Kobe Bryant

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant comeback playbook is written in pencil for a reason. For starters, no one knows for sure when Bryant, who returned to the practice floor in limited fashion over the weekend, will make his official return from the Achilles injury and surgery that ended his 2012-13 season prematurely.

The other variable in this situation is the work being done by Bryant’s healthy teammates. Guys like Steve BlakeXavier Henry, Jordan Hill, Jordan Farmar and Nick Young have had to carry the mantle for Bryant, Steve Nash and even Pau Gasol in early on this season. And they’ve done an admirable job, given the circumstances.

The Lakers are hovering near .500 after Sunday night’s win over the visiting Detroit Pistons. And with Bryant making his way back and Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni getting more and more comfortable with his pieced-together bunch, a season-long fight for that eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference is not totally out of the question for the Lakers.

Kobe told NBA TV’s Rick Fox that if he the playoffs were going on right now he’d be ready to play. That’s a bold statement for a guy who is reportedly just now cranking up his rehab work to the point that he can eye a legitimate timetable for his return. But bold is what we all expect from Kobe. How realistic his stance is, however, is certainly up for debate. Kobe has chosen wisely when pressed for a concrete return date.

“It’s tough because once I’ve set that as a target then I’m hell-bent at doing it at all costs, even to the detriment of the damn Achilles,” Kobe told Fox. “I try to just stay in the moment and really try to listen to my body. The biggest thing is I have not done anything athletically for six months, seven months. You got to get your body back in shape. And doing that, if I was healthy — completely healthy — you have that much time off and get back in shape and your knee is going to ache, your ankle is going to hurt, your back is going to be out. So you got to go through your progressions as you normally would over the course of a summer.”

What cannot be disputed is the Lakers’ relevance if and when Kobe returns to action. If he’s even a reasonable shell of the Kobe Bryant we’ve come to know over the past two decades, he’ll add an element to this team that allows them to compete with the any of the other fringe playoff-chasers in the West.

If he’s the Kobe Bryant we’re used to, then things should heat up considerably for L.A. when he returns. The supporting cast will have to adjust to having him back in the lineup and the entire focus changes with his reintroduction to the flow of this current group.

Unlike last season, when the Lakers struggled to come up with a clear-cut identity with Kobe, Nash, Gasol and Dwight Howard as headliners in D’Antoni’s system, there are no misconceptions about this team. They know exactly who and what they are, relative to what Lakers fans have been used to throughout the Kobe era. They are a blue-collar bunch that awaits the return of the ultimate competitor, a white-collar superstar whose always been a blue-collar worker at his core.

“The identity is going to be: We have to play full-out for 48 minutes,” DAntoni told ESPN.com’s J.A. Adande when asked about the adjustments that will have to be made by all upon Kobe’s return. “And then Kobe comes back and now the identity changes, so we’re OK.”

Everything changes when Kobe comes back.

In the meantime, the blue-collar Lakers have to continue to keep grinding …

35 Comments

  1. dmh says:

    The one big advantage for the lakers this season is the fact that they came in with absolutely no expectations. Kobe for all practical purposes has no timetable for his return, even if he was cleared for basketball activity. Dwight is gone (which is a good thing as his game never meshed with the Mike D’Antoni system to begin with) so there is one less superstar to coddle. The defense has taken a hit but, D’Antoni teams were never known for defense to begin with. Pau has moved to center which, at this stage of his career especially with the D’Antoni system is more appropriate. Plus there are younger, fresher legs stepping up in place of the older “stars.’ Plus, they fit together better than last year’s senior citizen corral in NBA years that attempted to play for the lakers and mostly failed. There also are various cast-offs within that bunch that are having good (Johnson, Henry and especially Hill) years with more defined roles.

    So moral of the story….. The lakers have been able to play more free and thus is translating into enough non-Kobe wins to take the pressure off the team as a whole.

    Based on numbers and needs, when Kobe comes back I think whatever pick of the day that has been starting at sg goes to the bench and Johnson probably stays in the starting 5. The reason for that is outside of Kobe, Johnson is the lakers best wing defender. Plus with his slashing and defensive style, he does not need the ball to be effective. It is probably a good thing to have someone who does not need the ball to be in the starting 5 when Kobe comes back as Kobe will probably go back to taking 20-30 shots a game. Will Mike D’Antoni do that? Not necessarily…….. Mike D’Antoni loves his small ball a little too much to guarantee that. Plus it took forever to put Hill in the starting lineup where he belongs on this team. Should Mike D do that with Johnson remaining in the starting 5? Yes, Yes a thousand times YES!

    It will be interesting to see what happens when Kobe comes back either way. Chemistry is important. A grind it out style sometimes can be disrupted by a star. How will everyone react? Stay tuned folks!

  2. Indi says:

    Lakers need an overhaul. They aren’t going anywhere with $40 million wasting away due to injury and just being old and another 20 million shooting under 40 % averaging 13 pts a game. With all due respect to Kobe and all that he has done for the Lakers, him making 30 million this year is really hurting the team. Same goes for Gasol and Nash.

  3. Jereac54 says:

    I agree with Laker Fan, we have what’s been missing on the Lakers’ team the past couple of years, three-point shooter and and a dedicated rebounder. The only other part missing is a to-the-basket lasher along with a superstar. If Kobe returns to his old form,we will have both.

  4. Father says:

    Kobe wants to win 10 rings. Great ! I like players who work very hard, and push themselves to be better. In a normal world, there is no way a 34 yr old or 35 yr old player should completely dominate a 27 yr old and in his prime Josh Smith like Kobe did last year. Kobe even power-dunked in the guy’s face and Josh is one of the premier shot blockers in the league. Kobe is still the best player in the NBA, pound for pound. If he was 6 feet 8 inches and 260 pounds like Lebron is, no one would be able to touch him at all. But if Lebron was 6 feet 6 and 210 pounds, he would be ordinary

  5. Mr,Bryant says:

    kobe is not like any player in the league he is different u cant predict the future!

  6. NerfBallGM says:

    The two free throws against Golden State was a climatic and story book finale for Kobe (stay away, stay away)
    You don’t want to see Kobe coming off the bench averaging 15 ppg making deodorant and cereal commercials

  7. spursfan says:

    the lakers can only hope for decaying kobe.
    when he comes back, hes not the same as you expect him to be.
    sad but true.

  8. With the way the Lakers are playing right now it is decent. We do however need more defense….we have a great bunch of young guys who are talented with their three point shooting and with more time playing together they the Lakers will surprise all of the sport casters…when Kobe returns…we will make the playoffs… there is not a doubt in my mind. I’ve been a Laker fan since 1947

  9. Most of you are not looking at the big pitcher, I think the group of players they have now are great at what they are doing. The defense has to improve, but everyone should remember when we all said….wish we had some three point shooters…remember? well now we have a bunch of good ones. For all of you nay sayers, I think the Lakers right now have a more than decent team. With Kobe back it could become a great team.

  10. Lakers Fan says:

    They should keep the young guns (Young, Meeks, Hill, Johnson, Henry) amnesty Nash and sign Kobe and Pau to veteran’s minimum to make room for a key free agent (Melo?)

  11. Banks says:

    lakers missed playoffs in 05 the year kobe scored 81 @lakers#1 ima tru lakers fan….. but kobe will be good when he gets back but hey they will have a better chance mixing things up nxt year even if they dnt get a top free agent they will have enough money for sign and trade deals…teams will be trying to get rid of players and free up space for new luxury tax clause….. #lakersnation

  12. JOAO PEDRO PEREIRA says:

    The lakers are a joke..they will not make the playoffs in the west even with kobe..at best they will have a better record than 3 teams, utah, sacramento and phoenix..maybe just maybe better than new orleans..the rest are above them…

    • F.Foz says:

      You’r so wrong…

      they will be in the top 10… in the west coast…

      even if they miss playoff… they will be better then some teams in west and better then some playoff teams in the East

      but for all that matters… I really think they will be in playoff picture… and because off that they will miss a very good draft pick… to go along Kobe next year… waiting for the summer of 2015, when they will go for RW (OKC) and Love (Wolves)…

      no way LBJ will be a laker… so they will wait for 2015… because 2014 Melo ins’t a good choice!

  13. Milen says:

    They just need to get their act together… they have a lot of talent and Young, Hill and Johnson can improve and do a lot for this team.

  14. Kome the Black Dumba says:

    Lakers are great with Gasol, Henry, Meeks, Hill, Blake playing team game.
    Young still likes to do his dance around but I think LA could live with it since he’s the spark plug off the bench.
    Obviously they lack a star but I think they could get one for the next draft.

    If spoiled vino comes back and realized he’s still hurt and start playing team ball LA for sure will go to playoffs.

    If the criminal comes back and start playing hero ball, LA is going to be the 2nd New York Knicks.

  15. okc2014 says:

    The Lakers can only get better. It’s just that bad.

  16. ko0kiE says:

    i think it’s gonna be hard to make the playoffs for the lakers.. but I don’t have a doubt that kobe bryant will still be one of the top15 players in this league.. if he really stays in the game for 3,4 more years, a 6th ring can happen.. but not this season.

  17. dustydreamnz says:

    Yeah, even with Kobe playing every game I think they’ll miss the playoffs. Pistons haven’t got good chemistry yet.

    • LAKERS#1 says:

      LAKERS HAVEN’T MISSED THE PLAYOFF EVER SINCE KOBE WAS BORN NEVER SAY THAT AGAIN

      • Kome the Black Dumba says:

        Lakers missed the playoffs after shaq left.

        I guess another dumb lakers fan boy?

        It’s okay, you’ll be riding another bandwagon soon. Consider you could be living west coast, You prefer OKC or Warriors?

      • theking0522 says:

        Lakers missed the playoffs in 2007. Remember when Kobe was whining that he didn’t have enough help? The Lakers got Gasol for him because Kobe can’t carry a team without a very good center next to him. Kobe was whining while Lebron, at a much younger age, was carrying Cleveland to the playoffs with a very bad roster.

  18. Game Time says:

    Their next game is against GS. If they pull off a win then that’s reason to blog. This was a pretty weak win vs a non playoff team.

  19. LAKERSLAKERSLAKERS says:

    they have a good bench now. sign two big names next year with the cap space and it’s on.

  20. Filip says:

    As a laker fan I am happy to see this team battle every night, plus they are fun to watch.
    On the other hand i don’t think this team is deep enough to make the playoffs. Tank and get the high lottery pick and build around that, sign bledsoe and wait for love :D

    • Jordan > Kobe > Lebron > the rest says:

      @Filip if you think the Suns are letting Kobe go then you are gravely mistaken.

  21. lakers don’t really need to win this year…by the time 2014 comes they’ll be back to their normal self and kobe’s gonna keep harvesting them rings

    • lucky fri says:

      they have no real coach, no hustle, i like kobe too, – a team is more than names. they will have problems guarding young top stars on sf and pg position. they should adept to half court play – nothing fits together. a good rookie would help the team most.

      • astroboy2112 says:

        You clearly haven’t been paying attention. Say what u want about D’Antoni but he’s coaching his butt off with this team. Spacing is good, guys are playing hard, they are getting good shots, Blake and Farmar are looking really good in this offense compared to how bad they looked on the triangle, Jordan Hill has been in beast mode, guys are setting screens and rolling to the basket, Gasol has been posting up & shooting wide open 15 footers, pace is up, I mean this has D’Antoni written all over it. With Kobe hopefully back in solid form this team could potentially do something in the playoffs.

  22. lucky fri says:

    bad decissions – the lakers signed a multidollar contract with a tv channel. i think they are forced to reach the playoffs to fullfill that contract. but i am not so sure about that. how should the lakers make a cut. there not so much super free agents next year and the laks got cap space to sign two maxi contracts.
    thats a bad situation, they wont get super good free agents next year and maybe are not bad enough for a top rookie.
    there is the worst case szenario, lakers pick up free agent melo.

    • Nick says:

      If they pick up Melo, they will destroy their odds of winning a championship. Unless Melo goes back to playing like he did on the olympic team, he is death to ball movement.