Kobe Bryant’s highly anticipated return from a serious Achilles tendon injury came and went Sunday night in the Lakers’ 106-94 loss to the Toronto Raptors. The 15 time All Star was not happy with his performance.
Bryant put together a meager nine points, eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and eight turnovers in 28 minutes of play. When asked to grade himself, he told reporters he deserved an ‘F’. After an eight month absence from NBA action, a little rust was to be expected. But Bryant, 35, was especially upset about his eight turnovers.
Usually praised for his high basketball IQ and ability to perform under pressure, Bryant wanted to come out and avoid turnovers.
“I failed miserably at that. That was really the biggest thing for me, just trying to take care of the basketball because I know I’m going to be in charge of making some decisions out there … Basketball wise, I’m not happy.”
With an almost unknown cast of players, the Lakers had begun the season at 10-9 before Bryant’s return. Coach Mike D’Antoni admits that Kobe’s presence probably “disrupts” the chemistry and identity the team had developed over the first 19 games. However, D’Antoni does not see this as a negative, only an opportunity for the Lakers to try some new things and get better.
D’Antoni was so anxious to see what Kobe could do, he put Bryant in during a 4th quarter comeback attempt rather than rest him on the bench.
“I wanted to live a little bit,” D’Antoni said of bringing Bryant back in to close the game. “We got to get through this, so it’s like, ‘OK, maybe you lose the skirmish anyway and the battle is bigger.’ Obviously we’re going to ride Kobe. So, you might as well get it over with and go ahead.”
Kobe is not satisfied with his performance. He looks at the failed return as a chance to watch film, criticize his performance, and get better.
“I couldn’t wait to start watching the film and start criticizing every little thing,” Bryant said. “That’s the exciting part. The exciting part is you got a challenge, you got improvements to make and you sit and you watch them and you break it down and you get ready for the next game and you carry it from there.”
The Lakers are hoping that the rest of the season grades a little bit better now that they have their star player back.
[Image courtesy of Richard Mackson/USA Today]