Lakers Nation Roundtable: What Form Will Kobe Return In Next Season?

Kobe BryantThe Los Angeles Lakers are entering the 2013-14 season with a lot of questions. While fans don’t know exactly what they can expect from the team next season, they can be assured that the team will still be anchored by Kobe Bryant. However, Bryant is arguably the biggest question of all, which is very unfamiliar territory.

Coming off of season-ending Achilles surgery in April, it is still unknown what form he will return in on the court. Even though Bryant says he is “shattering” the usual recovery timetable for an Achilles injury, the history of NBA players dealing with Achilles injuries are causing these questions to exist.

The Lakers Nation roundtable writers decided to tackle this topic this week. Here’s what they had to say:

Suki Thind (@TheRealSuki): I think Kobe will return in quite impressive form, actually. The Black Mamba–more recently nicknamed Vino due to his impressive 17th season–has already self-proclaimed to be “shattering” the timetable for his return.

Additionally, critics who have been writing Kobe Bryant off (or saying that he’ll be, “Pretty good. That’s it.”) are only adding fuel to the Mamba’s inner fire. As I mentioned in an earlier article, although he’s not 32 anymore, he played on virtually one leg back in 2011–a season in which he averaged 25.3 points on an eFG% (Effective Field Goal Percentage) of 48.7 in just 33.9 minutes of play. I think given the amount of minutes he should be limited to coupled with the fact that he’ll be relatively pain free and functioning on two legs (as opposed to the 2010-2011 season), he’ll certainly be capable of similar numbers even at 35 years of age.

Kobe’s a player who ultimately relies on fundamentals to be dominant on the basketball court. Although he may have lost a step due to the injury, I’ve asked Dr. Klapper of ESPN plenty of times about explosion coming back after an Achilles injury, and he’s stated that it may take up to a year to return, but it can definitely do so. While he may not be the best player in the league any more, Kobe’s skill level and footwork is simply still the best in the business. He may not have the same explosion right away, and his defense may suffer as a result, but you can be sure he’s still going to take defenders to school each and every night.

Ryan Ward (@Lakers_Examiner): History is not on Kobe Bryant’s side in terms of recovering from Achilles surgery and being the same player of old. Kobe is entering his 18th season while recently turning 35 years old. Not only does Kobe have big hill to climb in terms of getting back on the floor healthy and playing at a high level, but his team is severely lacking in the talent department.

Despite all the obstacles Kobe will be facing returning to the floor this season, it’s hard to doubt the five-time NBA champion not returning to at least an All-Star form. Kobe may struggle to get back to an elite level initially, but two months after his return it’s plausible the Kobe of old will return and help this team secure a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

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Ramneet Singh (@RamneetSingh24): Kobe Bryant has shown that he is one of the most durable players in the NBA, and his Achilles recovery just proves it. Not many people expected Bryant to return by the end of the calendar year, but there is actually a chance that he could be suited up for opening night.

However, I do see Bryant struggling a bit in his first couple of games just because he hasn’t been used to playing basketball for several months. Training camp will help Bryant get comfortable on the court, but there is nothing like actual NBA competition. Recovering from an Achilles injury is a very challenging task and even though Bryant is a tough player, there will be a period where his play will be sub par.

Nevertheless, I see the Black Mamba returning to full form and having an effective season for the Lakers. Even though he will have stretches of games where he struggles, eventually he will get back to the level of play that he was at before.

Elizabeth Benson (@gobibs): While an Achilles injury (let alone a complete rupture in Kobe Bryant’s case) is known as the career ender for professional basketball players, I don’t believe that will be the case for Kobe. Will he lose a step? Probably, especially when it comes to explosiveness. Will it take some time for him to find a groove? Of course. However, Kobe has repeatedly found a way to adjust his game over the years in order to be effective and have an impact on the game.

I think his defense will suffer the most from his Achilles injury, especially going against younger two-guards. Last season, Kobe’s off-the-ball defense was ineffective too much of the time. This combination is why I think it was important to add a boost to the Lakers’ perimeter defense.

Yet, when it comes to offense, I expect his fundamentals and basketball IQ to take over and find a way to be effective. He has a plethora of tools to work with to still cause defenders headaches. Additionally, I think his minutes per game are going to be crucial as he was overplayed too often last season.

At the end of the day, I will not be the one to bet against Kobe Bryant and his will and determination to return in full form.

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