Fifteen time NBA All-Star, five time NBA champion, and two time NBA Finals MVP Kobe Bryant will retake the court tonight against the Toronto Raptors. It will mark the first time Bryant has seen NBA action since tearing his left Achilles tendon back in April. Despite the rust and the required physical exertion, he will not come off the bench. Bryant is set to retake his starting shooting guard role immediately. You can still find Lakers tickets available if you’re looking to go.
Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni stated that he expects no more than 30 minutes from Kobe Bryant tonight. This is probably wise, as it is difficult enough to play extended minutes when you’re 35 years old, much less when returning from major surgery. In reality, we can expect Bryant to play anywhere from 15-25 minutes in his season debut, but there is no reason for that number to stay low for long.
“I don’t think it’s a magical number. He’s totally well and ready to go. I think he’ll be limited by his wind and ability to be able to take the pounding. So, I would be surprised if more than in the twenties. It shouldn’t be any more than that.”
-Mike D’Antoni via Dave McMenamin, ESPN Los Angeles
There are mixed feelings among Trail Blazer fans regarding Bryant’s return to action. The division seems fixed between the literal and figurative hope for him to “break a leg.” I understand the years upon years of resentment towards the superstar, but, please, be civil. I wish Kobe Bryant nothing but success this season, as long as the Trail Blazers succeed at least a little bit more.
We’ve probably got about three seasons left to appreciate Bryant’s transcendent career as anything more than memory. He signed a two year contract extension with the Lakers on November 25th worth approximately $48.5 million. Before scoffing at that figure and playing the “greedy superstar” card, bear in mind that he “simply agreed to the offer.” Either way, it’s likely to be the last payment plan of his NBA career.
So, hate it or love it, enjoy it while you can. Whether you’re ready to boo a longtime rival until your lungs explode or applaud a worthy adversary as his name is called, remember how amazing it is that he’s here to begin with. The game will be televised on NBA TV at 6:30 p.m. PST. Los Angeles is 10-9 in his absence and will likely improve before the night is through, as Toronto small forward Rudy Gay has just been traded to the Sacramento Kings. Are you ready for the return?