VIDEO: The TNT crew discussed Kobe’s latest setback and what it means for the Lakers
LOS ANGELES – Kobe Bryant has seen your tweets. He might have even read them twice. And no, he’s not shutting it down this season, his latest setback (the fractured knee he suffered last week) won’t deter him and yes, he will absolutely return to the Los Angeles Lakers this season, despite calls for him to shut it down and just get ready for next season.
Any suggestions that he might shut it down for the season Bryant insists are not only misguided but just plain foolish. He has an obligation to get through his latest rehab stint and get back on the court with the Lakers and chase the playoff berth they have been planning on since he missed out on it last season.
“No, not that I’m aware of,” Bryant said when asked if there was any chance six games would be the total of his workload this season. “My job as an athlete is to train, get healthy, get strong and come back and do my job.”
Bryant dropped that bit of business, and more, before watching the Lakers play the Miami Heat on Christmas at Staples Center, the first time in his storied career that he hasn’t been in uniform for a showcase day game.
Some Christmas it turned out to be for him. Instead of squaring off against LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Heat under the brightest of lights, Bryant instead spent his day watching the action. Before he suffered that latest setback, Bryant had this matchup circled on his calendar.
“This was a really big measuring stick,” Bryant said of the matchup against the Heat. “Because of their speed, their activity and their size. I was really looking forward to this game to be able to measure where I was physically, especially with the time frame I came back. I was really looking at this game to measure what I can do and what I can’t do.”
Bryant returned from April Achilles surgery to play just six games before fracturing his let knee last week in the third quarter of a game he actually finished against the Memphis Grizzlies. That mean six more weeks on the shelf and six more weeks of doing the one thing he loathes the most, and that’s watching his team play in a suit.
When asked if he thought pushing to get back from the Achilles injury had anything to do with the knee fracture, Bryant resisted the urge to go off.
“Because it’s Christmas I will refrain from being a smart ass,” he said. “I don’t think one had anything to do with the other. I mean, we evaluated it pretty extensively. The fact of the matter is, any of us can get hurt at any moment. The key for us at athletes is to block that fear out. And when you have injuries that fear is enhanced. You kind of put yourself under a microscope and you start thinking about it too much. It can happen to anybody. So you just have to tune that noise out and go out there and perform.”
That, of course, was the plan for Christmas. Bryant has been a Christmas Day staple throughout his career. For the better part of the past two decades fans have been able to rely on him suiting up and putting on his usual show with the Lakers. Much like everything that has gone on since April, Wednesday’s trip to the arena was a new experienced for him.
“It’s strange to be coming in on Christmas and not playing,” he said. “It’s really strange. It’s a foreign feeling. But I’m here, here to support my guys. It’s hard to watch. It’s really, really hard to watch, because you want to be out there helping and playing and competing with your guys. But when you are watching … that’s just the really, really tough part about this. I find myself kind of watching a little bit and then changing the channel, then watching a little bit more and then changing the channel again.”
Still, the toughest part of this entire ordeal for Bryant is that he said he was just starting to get back to normal in that game against the Grizzlies.
“The biggest part of my game the last two or three years has been getting to a space on the floor and then elevate and shoot pull up jump shots or get into the paint,” Bryant said. “It was a great test going up against Tony Allen, who in my opinion has been the guy who defended me the best individually since I’ve been in the league. And with four games in five nights, to be able to go up against him and respond to that challenge … I was feeling really good about things.”
With that feeling gone and another month or so to grind away getting ready for yet another comeback, Bryant has not lost any of his fire.
“My spirits are fine,” he said. “My spirits are fine. I feel more locked in now than I have my entire career because of this. My spirits are fine, focus is great and we’re just going to have to see what happens when I come back.”
In the meantime, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni will save his pep talks for someone that actually needs one, because Bryant does not.
“You know Kobe’s scheming to come back,” he said, “and getting ready and doing everything he can to push the envelop and be ready.”