Kobe Bryant's Return Will Make the Lakers a Dangerous Playoff Contender

Giancarlo Ferrari-KingFeatured ColumnistNovember 5, 2013

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 30: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers sits on the bench during a game against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena on October 30, 2013 at in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Sitting at 2-3 this season, it's obvious that the Los Angeles Lakers need Kobe Bryant now more than ever before.

Fighting his way back from injury, Bryant recently told Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times that his Achilles tendon "felt fine."

While there is no set timetable for his comeback, Bryant's return to the Lakers will help this struggling team in more ways than one.

For starters, getting Bryant back in action means the Lakers will have their undisputed leader back on the court.

Although he's been notoriously outspoken at times—according to ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin, Bryant told teammate Pau Gasol to put his "big-boy pants on" last season—Bryant's outstanding play has cemented his legacy as the leader of this franchise.

Whether you point to his five NBA titles or 15 All-Star Game appearances, Bryant's ability to win on just about any stage gives him immense credibility in the locker room.

LOS ANGELES - JUNE 17: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates after winning over the Boston Celtics in Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals on June 17, 2010 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledge
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Coming back to a team loaded with fresh faces, Bryant's unrelenting work ethic and winning ways will help force the guys around him to play better basketball.

However, the main reason why Bryant's return will make the Lakers a dangerous playoff contender is, well, he's Kobe Bryant.

Averaging 27.3 points per game before suffering his injury last season, Bryant has proven over the course of his illustrious career that he will always be able to contribute whenever he's called upon.

For all of those Lakers fans and haters who are worried about how this injury will effect his play at 34 years old, look no further than former Atlanta Hawks superstar Dominique Wilkins.

After suffering a ruptured Achilles in 1992, Wilkins returned the following season to average 29.9 points per game.

1992-1993:  DOMINIQUE WILKINS OF  THE ATLANTA HAWKS PLAYING AGAINST THE DENVER NUGGETS Mandatory Credit: Tim Defrisco/ALLSPORT
Tim DeFrisco/Getty Images

If Wilkins could bounce back, there's no reason why Bryant shouldn't be able to with all of the medical advances we have 21 years later.

The lesson here is that, although devastating, you can overcome this type of injury if you work hard enough. And, honestly, who works harder than Bryant?

While Bryant isn't the same player he was 10 years ago, the fact remains that he is still one of the best basketball players on the planet.

Without the distraction that goes by Dwight Howard lingering around, look for Bryant to seize control of this team and help mold it into a playoff contender.

Whether you point to his unrelenting desire to better himself, his recent production on the court or his ability to lead by example, it's clear as a chilled glass of Evian water that the Lakers need Bryant to get back to business.

NEWPORT BEACH, CA - MARCH 29:  Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers works out with his personal trainer during a photo session on March 29, 2008 at his home in Newport Beach, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by down
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

 

Unless otherwise noted, all stats courtesy of ESPN.com.