Skip to content

With Kobe’s return on horizon, so is shift in Lakers’ identity

Nov 18, 2013, 10:35 AM EDT

Los Angeles Lakers v Dallas Mavericks Getty Images

LOS ANGELES — Kobe Bryant is back practicing with the Lakers (as of this past weekend), creating a lot of buzz around the team. However that doesn’t mean his return to the court is imminent. Kobe said previously it likely would be two to three weeks after he returned to practice that he could play again, but around the Lakers caution and vague timetables remain the order of the day.

“He’s a presence, no doubt, and we need that presence, especially at the end of games,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said Sunday. “But we’ve got games to win and there’s going to be a bunch of them before he comes back. “

Still, his return begs another question:

What will be the Lakers’ identity when he returns?

They are just starting to find something resembling an identity now. They are up-tempo (fourth fastest in NBA) with solid shooters running to the arc. They move the ball well and defend better than people think (17th in the NBA). They are playing a D’Antoni style.

But D’Antoni understands that changes when Kobe gets back on the court

“The identity (now) is going to be we have to play full out for 48, and then Kobe comes back and the identity changes, so we’re OK,” D’Antoni said. “We just need to win as many as we can, get as good as we can, and then try to get some guys back that causes the identity changes a little bit….

“I just hope our identity will be a good team.”

To quote Andy Dufresne: “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things.” Thing is, Dufresne also had a plan of action to make the hope a reality. We’ll see if D’Antoni and the Lakers have that kind of plan.

Kobe — even a 35-year-old Kobe coming off an Achilles tendon surgery — should help a mediocre offense (25th in the NBA), in part because they don’t get to the free-throw line as much. The Lakers offense doesn’t have a focal point, something that hurts them in tight contests. Kobe brings that.

But right now the ball moves. You could see against the sad Pistons’ defense Sunday — there is something forming there. The question is: Can that seed take root when the force of nature that is Kobe Bryant returns? Or will it get blown away?

Put another way, will the Lakers have to adjust their identity upon his return?

“We don’t have to,” said Wesley Johnson. “I think he’s a very intelligent player and he’ll already know how to fit in, and then with him, he’s just going to play right with us. It’s going to be good, this whole week of practice we’ll see what’s going to happen, but we’re improving and ready to welcome him back with open arms.”

There’s a sense around the Lakers that if they can stay around .500 (they are 5-7 right now) until they get Kobe back (and hopefully Steve Nash) then everything will work itself out.

I’m skeptical it’s that simple. You are introducing a new dynamic to the team and one that doesn’t necessarily fit with the running style seen so far. We have seen the scenario of a ball-dominating player returning from injury to a D’Antoni team before. Remember Carmelo Anthony returning to the “Linsanity” Knicks? This is a different situation — these Lakers aren’t playing as well as those Knicks and Kobe is a more versatile player than ‘Melo — but you wonder if the same kind of difficult adjustment period is ahead of the Lakers.

That’s not how the Lakers see it at all. They just want Kobe back, the sooner the better.

“All I did was watch him growing up,” Nick Young said. “Now I’m going to try to play my role as best I can, I know he’s going to need me….

“We just deal with (the changes) when it happens. I don’t know, I haven’t played with him, but I know it’s going to be fun to see.”

That it is. That it is.

Latest Posts
  1. James Harden and Dwight Howard show Mavericks what they’re missing in Rockets’ Game 1 win

    Apr 19, 2015, 12:45 AM EDT

    Dallas Mavericks v Houston Rockets - Game One Getty Images

    Houston outscores Dallas by 14 in 10 minutes with Howard and Harden, get outscored by four otherwise in 118-108 win

  2. Dwyane Wade says he won’t opt out of current deal to become a free agent this summer

    Apr 18, 2015, 11:30 PM EDT

    Dwyane Wade AP

    Wade has the ability to hit free agency, but is choosing to stay in Miami for at least one more season.

  3. Bradley Beal waves goodbye to Kyle Lowry after Lowry fouls out of Game 1 (VIDEO)

    Apr 18, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    Bradley Beal AP

    The basketball was ugly, but this still may be a very competitive series.

  4. Raptors GM Masai Ujiri on Wizards’ Paul Pierce: “We don’t give a sh-t about ‘It'”

    Apr 18, 2015, 1:18 PM EDT

    Masai Ujiri AP

    Ujiri cusses at a playoff pep rally for the second straight year.

  5. PBT First Round Playoff Previews: Los Angeles Clippers vs. San Antonio Spurs

    Apr 18, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT

    Los Angeles Clippers v San Antonio Spurs Getty Images

    How do you feel about a lot of hack-a-Jordan for six or seven games?

  6. Why the 2015 NBA playoffs feel wide open – but probably shouldn’t

    Apr 18, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    Golden State Warriors v San Antonio Spurs Getty Images

    With most 2014 conference-finalists eliminated, Warriors are clear favorite

  7. PBT Extra: Houston, Dallas simply do not like each other

    Apr 18, 2015, 12:30 AM EDT

    Dallas Mavericks v Houston Rockets Getty Images

    Their rivalry goes back until the Dwight Howard free agent recruitment. If not earlier.

  8. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban: ‘There’s no more predictable team than the Rockets’

    Apr 17, 2015, 10:30 PM EDT

    TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2014 - Day 1 Getty Images

    Cuban also says of Houston: “that’s not a very good team over there.”

  9. PBT staff playoff predictions: Lots of Golden State love from us

    Apr 17, 2015, 7:30 PM EDT

    Draymond Green, LeBron James AP

    Three PBT writers pick the Warrior to beat the Cavaliers in the Finals.

Featured video

Can Boston put a scare in Cleveland?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Durant (5364)
  2. C. Parsons (5269)
  3. D. Rose (5188)
  4. P. George (4883)
  5. L. James (4775)
  1. M. Conley (4732)
  2. S. Curry (4422)
  3. K. Bryant (4385)
  4. R. Westbrook (4349)
  5. D. Howard (4311)