Kobe Bryant Should Take His Time Returning from Achilles Injury
Expecting Kobe Bryant to make a miraculous return anywhere near opening day is just unrealistic. It would be wise and in the best interest of his future if the Lakers star exercised caution in his return to the court.
The 35-year-old icon tore his Achilles tendon on April 12, which means he's six months removed from an injury that typically sidelines athletes on the latter end of 6-9 months. In typical Bryant fashion, he aimed for an opening day return, but that was officially ruled out by ESPN's Dave McMenamin.
On Monday, Kobe moved from ground running to an "anti-gravity" treadmill that reduces impact per Los Angeles Times' Mike Bresnahan:
Kobe will run on "anti-gravity" treadmill that reduces impact on body. No longer running on hard ground but Lakers not calling it a setback.— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) October 28, 2013
Considering he was running on the ground before and now he's not, I don't know how you can't call that a setback. It only further proves that the Lakers' rushing their superstar back onto the court could prove to be detrimental.
Per ESPN's SportsCenter, L.A. is pushing hard to re-sign Kobe and make him a Laker for life, meaning he'll be around awhile:
Lakers VP of basketball operations Jim Buss says team has begun talks w/ Kobe Bryant about a contract extension » http://t.co/p5x2KDryMe— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 26, 2013
If Bryant is going to be a Laker for much longer than this season—and all indications point to that—then there's no way they'll compromise his availability for future seasons over a campaign that's unlikely to end in a title for L.A., regardless of Kobe's return.
The Lakers aren't great without Bryant, but they aren't awful, either. With Pau Gasol and Steve Nash seemingly healthy to start the campaign—along with contributors like Steve Blake, Nick Young, Wesley Johnson and Jordan Hill—they should be able to stay afloat for a couple of months.
Yet, it's awfully tough to imagine this supporting cast helping Bryant—just off of an injury—enough to contend for a title.
It's much more realistic to see the Lakers contending in 2014 and beyond, after Jim Buss and the team's front office execs go after prized potential free agents such as LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, just to name a few.
This will undoubtedly be enough for the Lakers organization to pump the brakes, but will it be enough for the noticeably impatient, hungry Bryant? His ignorance has propelled his career and allowed him to get over injuries most couldn't, but if he wants to have another run in the twilight of his career, he'll need to take care of his legs in the long term.
It's an obvious comparison, but Derrick Rose's dominance of the preseason thus far is an indication of a player coming back seemingly better than ever after giving his ACL injury the proper recovery time.
Kobe Bryant's Twitter profile picture reads "1225," likely indicating a Christmas day return against the defending champion Miami Heat. That's a much more realistic return date than the season opener and would figure to be about eight months after his injury.
However, if he isn't ready by then, he's not ready. And even if a playoff appearance is hanging in the balance and motivating Bryant's return, he shouldn't jump to make too quick of a decision.
The Lakers will be putting a lot of attention toward their future teams over the course of this season, and I think that will reverberate in the way they handle this delicate situation. But if Kobe doesn't treat it the same way, he could rush back and put much of that in jeopardy.
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