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PBT Roundtable: What to expect when Kobe Bryant does return

Nov 22, 2013, 12:45 PM EDT

Los Angeles Lakers v Golden State Warriors Getty Images

This is the latest in our looks around the NBA, with our PBT writers giving their thoughts on the topics of the day in the NBA. And right now, the big topic around the league is Kobe:

We’ve documented his return in excruciating detail, but the big questions remain: What does Kobe Bryant realistically bring to the Lakers upon his return? What should we expect from the Lakers going forward?

Kurt Helin: There is going to be a little rough patch at first, even Mike D’Antoni has said they will need to find a new team identity. That said, and despite the unreasonable expectations in Los Angeles (you’d swear they were getting the 2003 Kobe back if you listen to sports talk radio in L.A.), he can only help the Lakers offense. Of course, playing Papa Smurf at the three could only help the Lakers offense the way it has gone lately. The Lakers have actually played pretty close to league average defense this season, surprisingly, but their offense is 25th in the league in points per possessions, they lack shot creators and they don’t get to the line. Kobe is not going to be vintage — he’s going to be slowed, not as explosive — but even so he will draw defenders, get shots and get fouled. The Lakers are not going to be good with Kobe, but they can be an average team with dreams of a low playoff seed. And that was always the ceiling for this year’s Lakers anyway.

Dan Feldman: Immediately, he’ll muck up their offense. The Lakers are playing faster than they have since Showtime, and a likely still-somewhat-hobbled Kobe will disrupt that. But that adjustment period will be worth the long-term benefit of having such a great player on the court. As Kobe gets healthy and the Lakers learn to play with him, the Lakers’ offense should climb above 25th.

The Lakers have done a good job of remaining in the playoff periphery without Kobe, and his return should boost their postseason chances. Still, I think they’ll fall short and have to settle for a late lottery pick.

Darius Soriano: I agree with Kurt in that expectations, especially from the Kobe zealots, are that he will return as if he was never injured. Part of that is his history of playing well through various ailments and part of that is simply the mythology of Kobe Bryant. However, count me amongst those who are cautiously optimistic that he can perform at a reasonably high level offensively once he works his way back into game shape and gets a good feel for how he fits into this particular roster.

In terms of what he brings to this team, I think his biggest impact is two-fold. First, building on what Kurt said, Kobe instantly becomes the team’s most complete offensive player. He can score and pass; he can create for himself and others from the wing or the post. He’s a true threat from anywhere on the floor and that’s something the Lakers have missed this year. Second, and maybe more important, is that Kobe brings some needed leadership and helps this group continue to define its identity. This team has really taken on the personality of its coach — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing — but what they haven’t had is someone on the floor (rather than the sidelines) they can lean on or look to consistently on when things start to get tough. Kobe, for better or for worse, will gladly take on that burden and will shape the mindset of this group simply because of the weight he carries in the locker room and the gravity of his personality.

  1. stadix093 - Nov 22, 2013 at 1:29 PM

    I hope he comes back good, and we miss the playoffs by 15 games. The lotto is so good this year, and we have cap space next year. I know it’s a tough sell to get a star to come to a team with a bare roster and Mike D but a great rookie will help rebuild the future. Go Lakers.

    • therealhtj - Nov 22, 2013 at 2:01 PM

      Nah, Feldman pretty much nailed it on the head – the team will be just good enough to miss the playoffs and get a draft pick a bit outside where a potential star can be selected.

      Just the perfect scenario – for the legions of Laker haters out there.

  2. azarkhan - Nov 22, 2013 at 1:33 PM

    What to expect when Kobe Bryant does return?

    Kobe stories ad nauseam.

    • Anoesis - Nov 22, 2013 at 11:29 PM

      That and comments about how many stories there are from people who can’t figure out they don’t have to click on them.

  3. skids003 - Nov 22, 2013 at 2:50 PM

    Soriano, how much did he pay you to write that? When he gets back, he’ll be jacking up his 30 shots a game to get his points, which will completely disrupt every thing else on the team. Of course, he’ll blame everybody else, and you Kobe worshipers will be right there with him, probably blaming Gasol. What a joke.

    • antistratfordian - Nov 22, 2013 at 3:41 PM

      Soriano’s assessment was pretty even keeled, in my humble opinion as an anti-Mambaist (pronounced mom-bay-ist).

    • vi3tguy415 - Nov 22, 2013 at 7:02 PM


  4. asimonetti88 - Nov 22, 2013 at 3:34 PM

    “That said, and despite the unreasonable expectations in Los Angeles (you’d swear they were getting the 2003 Kobe back if you listen to sports talk radio in L.A.), ”

    Kurt, you keep saying this, but I don’t know what sports radio you’re listening to.

    Petros and Money the other day were talking about how Kobe coming back will be a liability defensively (which is true), and how the Lakers will struggle out of the gate as they try to integrate Kobe into the team.

    Fred Roggin spent a good 25 minutes taking calls yesterday about the Lakers, and the vast majority of them were saying the best way to fix the Lakers was to move on from Kobe at the end of the year because he will only serve to drag the Lakers down. In fact, there were multiple people who specifically said they should have amnestied him instead of Metta!

    I really don’t know what sports talk radio you’re listening to, because clearly it’s not the same as me.

    • Kurt Helin - Nov 25, 2013 at 11:22 PM

      try listening to 710, the Lakers station, which gets better ratings than 570.

      • asimonetti88 - Nov 25, 2013 at 11:30 PM

        I’d prefer to not listen to the 4-letters.

        PMS and Dan Patrick are also not on 710.

  5. onlyavoice - Nov 22, 2013 at 9:52 PM

    The Lakers need to part ties with Kobe.
    I wish him well & thanks for the memories but there is no team play left in him.
    The Lakers best bet is to tank the season, fire D’Antoni & start from scratch.
    I’ll guarantee that not 1 big name free agent will sign with the Lakers next summer,
    not as long as Kobe & D’Antoni are there.

  6. Anoesis - Nov 22, 2013 at 11:29 PM

    “…if you listen to sports talk radio in L.A….” I now understand why you think most Laker fans are jerks.

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