The Los Angeles Lakers may have lost Kobe Bryant to injury last year and fumbled their way to the bottom of the Western Conference, but team officials believe the All Star guard is set to come back in a big way and lead them back to the playoffs.
Entering what is likely the end of his career, Bryant has worked hard to rehab from a broken bone in his knee and a torn Achilles tendon, all suffered over the course of a few months. He has lost 10 pounds through a rigorous offseason regimen, getting back to his playing weight before he was injured.
After finishing 27-55 last season and missing the playoffs for just the third time in 28 years, the Los Angeles Lakers are now looking to lean on Kobe again.
“I think he’ll be very effective,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said Friday. “I’m not going to predict what his statistics will be, but… if we needed 30 or 35 (points) from him, I think he could get it.”
Kupchak predicted that Kobe Bryant would still have a huge impact on the court, even if his game has changed a bit.
“I think he’s going to have an excellent year,” Kupchak said. “He’s going to play differently than he played 10 years ago. Maybe not so different than what he played two or three years ago, because if you’ve tracked his progress over the years… he’s gradually turned into a seasoned veteran, knowing when to turn it on.”
He continued, “He goes to certain spots on the court. He doesn’t take wild shots. He doesn’t gamble as much on defense. I think you’ll see a player similar to what you saw two years ago. He’ll do as much as he has to do to put us into the best chance to win.”
The Los Angeles Lakers have different plans for Kobe Bryant as well. Once good for 35 minutes or more a game, Bryant will now see his playing time decline as the team looks to conserve his energy for the stretch run. Lakers coach Byron Scott said Kobe will be used conservatively this season, with Jeremy Lin penciled in for greater minutes in the backcourt.
[Image via Laker Nation]