Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant won't be playing in the team's season opener against the Los Angeles Clippers, reports Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com, and he shouldn't rush to make his return to the court until he's 100 percent ready.
The 35-year-old tore his Achilles against the Golden State Warriors on April 12, and the initial timetable for his return was six to nine months. Six months has just passed given the fact that we're now nearing the end of October, but thrusting himself back into action so early could be detrimental to both his success and the team's.
Head coach Mike D'Antoni used Steve Blake in Bryant's spot at shooting guard for each of the final two games of the preseason against the Utah Jazz. There are few players in the NBA that I would want to replace Bryant—Blake isn't one of them—but it's hard to overlook the numbers he put up in those two games.
After serving as a role player in their game on October 22 against Utah—he scored just two points on just two field-goal attempts and grabbed six rebounds—he stepped it up big time for the rematch just a few nights later.
He went 7-of-7, shooting for 19 points, and played a key role in the Lakers' 111-106 victory. Blake seems to step up in important situations, and replacing Bryant for however long he rehabs would qualify as "important."
If you recall, Blake was pretty good in the two games he played in last year's playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs. He scored 14.0 points per game and shot 41.7 percent from three. When the Lakers needed to make a shot, they looked to him with Bryant out.
Again, he represents a big drop-off from Bryant's level of production—and one could argue that even an unhealthy Bryant could contribute more in the short-term future—but he's a solid option to replace him for as long as Bryant needs to fully recover.
Even if Bryant is a better option for the short term, it wouldn't be wise of them to rush him back. The Lakers need to be looking forward to the end of the 2013-14 season, when a 100 percent healthy Bryant can make an enormous impact.
Can the Lakers survive with Steve Blake at shooting guard?
He'll be playing with a chip on his shoulder for more reasons than one. The most obvious is that he wants to prove to the NBA that his 35-year-old body can return from a gruesome injury and produce at the level he has for the past few seasons.
Secondly, he'll be looking to avenge that No. 25 ranking from NBA general managers. Sure, he called the ranking "silly" and "laughable," via the Los Angeles Daily News, but that shouldn't lead fans to believe that he isn't ready to prove his doubters wrong.
That will be hard for him to do if he's not completely healthy. Getting back into tip-top playing shape should be paramount for the Black Mamba. Only then will he be able to prove what he has set in his mind.