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. Report: Alan Anderson signs one-year, $4 million deal with Washington Wizards

    Jul 7, 2015, 6:08 PM EDT

    Brooklyn Nets v Atlanta Hawks - Game Five Getty Images

    The one-year deal keeps their cap space alive next summer to chase Kevin Durant.

  2. Jason Smith reaches one-year deal with Orlando Magic

    Jul 7, 2015, 5:15 PM EDT

    New York Knicks V Philadelphia 76ers Getty Images

    The Knicks and Magic essentially swap reserve centers.

  3. J.J. Redick: Clippers deserve “F” for free agency after losing DeAndre Jordan

    Jul 7, 2015, 4:35 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Clippers v Houston Rockets - Game Five Getty Images

    “Listen, we had one priority this summer, and that was to re-sign DJ, and we missed out on that.” — J.J. Redick on the Clippers summer.

  4. PBT Podcast: Free agency’s winners and losers

    Jul 7, 2015, 3:25 PM EDT

    LaMarcus Aldridge LaMarcus Aldridge

    The Lakers were not free agency losers like some think.

  5. Report: Boston Celtics agree to trade for David Lee for Gerald Wallace

    Jul 7, 2015, 3:06 PM EDT

    davidlee Getty Images

    Look for the Warriors to waive Wallace using the stretch provision.

  6. Lakers anticipate signing D’Angelo Russell in time for Summer League debut vs. Timberwolves

    Jul 7, 2015, 2:44 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers Draftees Shoot Los Angeles Lakers Draftees Shoot

    Julius Randle, L.A.’s first round pick last year, missed the Summer League opener due to a contract issue.

  7. Lou Williams ‘disappointed’ Raptors didn’t want him back

    Jul 7, 2015, 1:05 PM EDT

    Toronto Raptors v Charlotte Hornets Getty Images

    The reigning Sixth Man of the Year signed a free agent deal with the Lakers.

  8. Dwyane Wade cites his scoring average when asked how long he’ll continue to play: ‘I think I’ll stay around a while’

    Jul 7, 2015, 12:15 PM EDT

    wade Getty Images

    Wade was the third leading scorer in the East last season, but missed 20 games due to a combination rest and injury.

  9. Mark Cuban fined $25K for commenting on free agents DeAndre Jordan, Wes Matthews

    Jul 7, 2015, 11:31 AM EDT

    Squawk Box - Season 20 Getty Images

    Teams aren’t allowed to discuss deals during the moratorium period, which is still going on.

  10. Report: Kevin Garnett to re-sign with Timberwolves

    Jul 7, 2015, 10:52 AM EDT

    Kevin Garnett AP

    KG will be back for a record 21st NBA season.

  11. Report: Cavaliers ‘have not abandoned’ pursuit of J.R. Smith

    Jul 7, 2015, 10:40 AM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks - Game One Getty Images

    Cleveland just added Mo Williams, but Smith (and Matthew Dellavedova) will likely be back.

  12. Jazz GM says he’ll have news for fans soon regarding contract issue with Trey Lyles

    Jul 7, 2015, 9:55 AM EDT

    Trey Lyles Trey Lyles

    The 12th overall pick hasn’t practiced with the Jazz, and remains unsigned. But the GM says “No worries.”

  13. Report: Players union to set up fund to help retired, destitute players medical expenses

    Jul 7, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT

    Michele Roberts, the Executive Director of National Basketball Players Association Getty Images

    This is the kind of thing that all that new television revenue should go to.

  14. LeBron James says his legacy “will speak for itself” (also talks “Trainwreck” movie)

    Jul 7, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    All I have ever argued about LeBron’s legacy is that you can’t compare it right now to Magic or Jordan or Bird or whoever because he’s still playing at the peak of his game.

  15. Matt Bonner blames down shooting season on iPhone 6

    Jul 7, 2015, 12:17 AM EDT

    Los Angeles Clippers v San Antonio Spurs - Game Four Getty Images

    Bonner claims a Spurs strength-and-conditioning coach supports the theory

Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. L. Aldridge (5993)
  2. D. Jordan (4098)
  3. W. Matthews (4043)
  4. R. Rondo (3549)
  5. D. Wade (3461)
  1. R. Hibbert (3442)
  2. D. West (3406)
  3. K. Bryant (3253)
  4. R. Lopez (3109)
  5. L. James (3051)