Kobe Season 17: The Raptors Strike Back

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The Toronto Raptors spoil Kobe’s return to the floor

Since I already used the “Jedi Returns” analogy, I thought I would end this series of Kobe returning posts with one more good Star Wars movie (and don’t worry, unlike George Lucas I know when to stop).

So Kobe returned, and boy did the Lakers utilize the hype machine. That was one hell of a production video they created. Everyone was so excited. The announcers kept mentioning his 81 point game as if they expected him to replicate it after recovering from a torn Achilles for 8 months. Well that was both amusing and foolish.

As God-like as Kobe acts, at the end of the day he is flesh and blood. He needs to recover like a human being. That is why I was not surprised by his rusty return. What did surprise me was Mike’s decision to play him in the fourth.

I anticipate some comments disagreeing with me on this point, so I will preemptively address the arguments and my responses. Here are the arguments I expect to hear:

How could you possibly not play one of the greatest closers in the fourth? Why would you keep a guy in the game whose name you can’t pronounce, as opposed to the lifelong Laker who we are paying millions of dollars? Kobe needs playing time so he isn’t rusty, so why wouldn’t you play him?

Well here are my answers:

Yes VINTAGE Kobe is one of the greatest players in the fourth. I want him taking the last shot of the game. However, right now Kobe isn’t Kobe. He is trying to regain his strength, speed, and timing to be that player again. Right now I don’t want to put him in over the guy who is the game’s leading scorer. That brings me to my next point. I have no idea how to pronounce Henry’s first name. I pronounce it like the school, but the announcers seem to think he is Spanish and pronouncing it like Javier. Therefore, I have no idea which is correct. However, Henry has been playing with the bench all season, and that bench single-handedly kept the Lakers both in the game and in the hunt this season. They are the number 1 scoring bench in the league and were in a good rhythm last night (for more of my insights on the bench see: The Lakers Silver Linings Playbook post.) I believe in playing who is hot, and last night that was Henry, not Bryant. Lastly, there is no need to rush Kobe. Mike is supposed to be monitoring his minutes anyway, and last night he played 2 more than Mike wanted. Also, we have 61 more games to get Kobe in “Kobe shape” so there is no need to force it. Lastly, the only purpose for trying to get the real Kobe back, is to both make the playoffs and then make a run, and since the Lakers are in the western conference, this will be a tough task.

I said this with my previous Kobe post, and I will say it again, “be patient.” Kobe is Kobe and he will get back to his usual ball hogging, almost superhuman player when he is ready. The Lakers would not have given him a nearly $50 million extension if they didn’t believe that, and after watching last nights game and seeing the little glimpses of his old self, I believe as well.

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