For the Los Angeles Lakers to defy long odds and make a playoff run in the loaded Western Conference, they’ll need 36 year-old Kobe Bryant to perform as the transcendent Hall-of-Famer he’s been throughout his career. With each passing day, that possibility appears far more likely than most anyone but his ardent fans anticipated. Following the Lakers’ first practice of the 2014-2015 season, Kobe said he “felt normal” and “like myself.”
Bryant trained unencumbered all summer after his season was cut short a year ago by a December fracture in his left knee. But considering his age and two serious injuries to his lower left leg that caused him to miss the vast majority of 2013-2014, realists are assuming that Kobe’s days as an All-NBA talent are over. He believes otherwise, obviously, and his reported performance and comfort on day one of Lakers camp lends credence to that optimism.
“I felt normal. I felt like myself,” Bryant said. “That’s a good thing.”
Bryant practiced for the first two hours and 15 minutes of the Lakers’ three-hour practice. He sat out the final 45 minutes and sat alongside Steve Nash, who practiced for the first 90 minutes…
“Kobe looked good,” [Byron] Scott said. “The first drill, the 10 minutes you could see the guys were in shape. Kobe looked good. Steve [Nash] was in great shape. Both of those guys did about three-fourths of the practice. I basically had to ask Kobe to shut it down. We got another one tomorrow. He went through one more drill and then shut it down. He felt he felt great and could have done more but right now it’s a progression of just going a little bit today.”
Kobe isn’t the type to temper expectations. If he’s playing and fully healthy, he’s simply not the type to admit weakness. So while Scott isn’t exactly an impartial observer, his insight holds a bit more weight than Bryant’s.
Despite this news and so much other enthusiasm regarding Kobe emanating from Los Angeles, we’re still skeptical. Bryant played poorly in his brief return to the court last season, and we expect similar struggles early this season at the very least. What Lakers fans don’t want to hear, though, is that even if their hero can miraculously regain his excellent 2012-2013 form, it likely won’t matter from a team perspective – the Lakers simply aren’t good enough elsewhere, and the West is too tough.
But watching Kobe play like his old self would surely be the next best thing to contention. And after this report, maybe the chances of that happening are better than we’re forecasting.
Will Bryant regain his superstar form?
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