Kobe Bryant made his much-awaited return to the Lakers lineup last night and the results were…inconclusive.
Kobe, who was introduced to the home crowd to the tune of the Darth Vader theme, played extremely passive, leading to four assists, but more importantly eight turnovers. He shot 2-9 for nine points and generally looked like he lacked any real explosiveness or ability to get by defenders, but rust was to be expected. Following the game, Bean graded his first night back on the job a “F,” albeit with a smirk on his face saying he felt optimistic about improving his “horseshit” form.
Unfortunately for Laker fans, the addition of one player seemed to cause Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni to lose all semblance of a rotation, as he shuffled lineups throughout. No Laker starter cracked double digit scoring, but all five reserves that played – a group of guys more familiar with playing with each other – scored 10 or more (the bench scored 71 points).
At one point in the fourth quarter, D’Antoni subbed Kobe back into the game for Xavier Henry, who was shooting 6-8 and had been the best Laker on the floor during his stint. Kobe spent the final six minutes of the game running point and Henry never saw the floor again.
Eventually, Kobe’s return was spoiled by the shorthanded Raptors 106-94 (more on that in a second) who never trailed, and were carried by Amir Johnson’s 32 points and 10 rebounds and Demar Derozan’s 26, including 10 in the last 4:35.
It’ll clearly take some time for Kobe to play himself into shape and find chemistry with all his new teammates, but with the Western Conference as strong as it is, the Lakers don’t have much time to waste.
Sitting at .500 almost a quarter of the way into the season is better than many expected for the Lake show, but there’s much work to be done if Kobe expects to get them into the playoffs again this season.
Shedding Gay for three expiring contracts was a coup, as Gay has a player option for nearly $20 million next season. This is also the same player who shot so badly last year that he had eye surgery to correct his vision, only to shoot even worse this year. Expect the tank job to begin shortly in Toronto.
For the Kings, the deal makes some sense, but doesn’t push them any closer to a playoff spot. With Gay they acquire a “star” that they aren’t going to otherwise be able to acquire in free agency. With that said, this is about as low-level a “star” as they can find, a player who doesn’t play much defense and has an awful shooting percentage.
Wait, now that I think about it, he should fit in perfectly on the Kings.