The Los Angeles Lakers were robbed of their heart and soul on April 12, as superstar Kobe Bryant suffered a torn Achilles in an impressive performance against the Golden State Warriors. Forced to win their final two games of the season to achieve the seventh seed in the Western Conference, the team had to fight a war without their general.
Reality finally set in, however, as the San Antonio Spurs executed a rather easy four-game sweep of the Lakers in the first round of the 2013 playoffs. Many fans began to question how many games Hollywood’s glamour franchise could have had under their belt if Bryant had been completely healthy. His rehab and process of returning to basketball is now the largest focus for the city, as the Dwight Howard sweepstakes left a bitter taste for the Lakers.
Once diagnosed with the Achilles injury, trainer Gary Vitti evaluated Bryant and announced a time table of six to nine months for recovery.
Exactly six months added to the date of the disaster, we will be witnessing NBA preseason matchups. This would be an ideal return for the soon to be 35-year-old, considering Bryant hasn’t had a reputation of sitting regular-season games due to injury. Typically, when aggravated with a tweaked ankle, injured finger or back pains, fans always have the opportunity to see No. 24 in action. It’s perhaps disingenuous to compare those temporary setbacks with something as grievous as an Achilles tear, but there is only one person that knows if Bryant will be ready to lace up by the end of October.
One thing is widely overlooked by fans of the Black Mamba: We have all been spoiled through nearly two decades. Having a favorite player that exemplifies an identical mindset and will power of the legendary Michael Jordan has its advantages and disadvantages. Bryant has undoubtedly given us the prime example of what a franchise should always consist of, from his long-time commitment to the leadership skills developed through the years. On the negative side, his consistency (in terms of health) and ability to put on huge performances with smaller injuries has allowed us to have unrealistic expectations. Viewing the game as a spectator, fans simply don’t process the ridiculous thought of Bryant competing at a high level after 17 grinding seasons.
While you can never count out someone who has won five NBA championships, the possibility of him beginning the season after December will be tough for Los Angeles fans to accept.
Does the current progress of Bryant’s Achilles signify an October return?
It appears, via multiple sources and media platforms, that Kobe is ahead of schedule to return to action. While the sources leaking these statements are from Lakers Owner Jim Buss and Bryant himself, there hasn’t been professional clarification as to where his recovery time stands. Still in the month of July, I believe I stand for most when I say that the general goal should be to rehab properly, rather than rush for any reason.
— The NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) July 19, 2013
Place us back in 2007 or 2008 with the current injury, and there would be no question that Bryant would be ready to go by October 30, which is the projected start date for each NBA season. Five years ago, he was ever-so anxious to reach the NBA Finals as the alpha male of his team. Fast forward to 2013 and now you have a veteran looking to have one final crack at winning his sixth championship.
One more mistake or setback on the court could ultimately lead to “The Last Chapter” being written too early for his fans across the globe. This is why it is crucial for the rehab process to go its course and not jump the gun for the wrong reasons. A championship is won in the second half of the season, not the first.
Kobe Bryant adopts ‘The Last Chapter’ as his comeback slogan http://t.co/NuFrxsaudX
— LAT’s Most Viewed (@latimesmost) June 15, 2013
While it is clear that everyone has their view on what Kobe Bryant should do regarding his return, only his mentality, doctors and family will influence his decision of when to step onto the court at Staples Center. The closest player we will ever see to Michael Jordan, in my opinion, will handle the decision accordingly.
With the burning desire to help his new roster succeed, don’t be surprised to see Bryant in the starting lineup for the season opener.