Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant will make his return to the lineup on Sunday, Dec. 8 against the Toronto Raptors, according to a video posted on his Facebook page. He missed the first 19 games of the season while recovering from surgery to repair his torn Achilles tendon.
Fantasy owners have already shifted their focus to the impact Bryant’s return will have on their rosters this week and moving forward, but everyone must temper their expectations while the veteran eases back into the starting rotation.
Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni told Antonio Gonzalez of the Associated Press (via Yahoo! Sports) about the process of slowly transitioning Bryant into action while still limiting his chances of reinjuring the ankle. The worst-case scenario for Los Angeles would be to rush Bryant back and cause a setback that costs him even more games.
The Lakers have survived without Kobe (10-9 overall, fourth in the Pacific Division and 10th in the Western Conference), but the team needs him to regain his elite form to be a viable championship contender out of the West.
Owners have waited patiently thus far for Bryant to return to the lineup, so waiting just awhile longer to plug him into your fantasy lineup is the smartest course of action.
Bryant is owned in 99 percent of Yahoo! Sports leagues. Owners smart enough to pick him in the middle rounds of the draft and stash him on the bench will be rewarded as he continues to work into game shape.
If Bryant is on your bench, you should not start him over a fully healthy player until he returns to his old form. The team must prove it has the confidence in his injured ankle to allow him to amass the minutes needed to be a viable fantasy start.
Bryant will undoubtedly return to the upper echelon; it’s just a matter of when, not if.
In this case, fantasy owners must remain patient and follow how the Lakers are allotting his minutes. Once he begins playing 25-30 minutes consistently without any re-aggravation of the injury, he will become an elite fantasy starter again.
How should fantasy owners handle Kobe Bryant's return?
For the owners that don’t have Bryant stashed, now is the time to test the waters with the person that does own his rights about a possible trade. His value is climbing every day, and the asking price could be too high to warrant the long-term risk. You won't know unless you ask.
Even on a Lakers team that struggled in 2012-13, Bryant was still a fantasy juggernaut, averaging 27.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and six assists per game. If he returns to that form this season, he could be the player that helps your team reach the championship.
Fantasy owners must be patient with Bryant’s return to the lineup, but there is no question that once he is in game shape, the veteran will regain his form as one of the top offensive players in the NBA.