There was cautious optimism surrounding Kobe Bryant's return from the torn Achilles that cut short his 2012-13 campaign.
As badly as the Los Angeles Lakers wanted their wounded warrior back, there was an understandable worry about the 35-year-old pushing himself too hard, too fast.
According to the 18-year veteran himself, right now there's no other option:
Kobe: "I don't really have much of a choice right now. I gotta get out there & do a lot more than expected." (on pushing it w/o Blake)— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) December 12, 2013
Lakers Nation might have no choice but to agree.
The team just lost Steve Blake for at least the next six weeks with a torn ligament in his right elbow, via Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Lakers. Fellow floor generals Steve Nash (back) and Jordan Farmar (torn hamstring) were already on the shelf.
There is no longer a healthy point guard on the roster. And the Lakers don't see any available help coming from outside the roster:
Kupchak said he doesnt think there's any PG out there who could play ahead of Kobe, Meeks, ect. It will be status quo for the time being— janis carr (@janiscarr) December 12, 2013
So, for the time being at least, one of the league's greatest shooting guards of all time will swap his backcourt job title. While it seems like this is (or at the very least should be) subject to change, Bryant will assume those responsibilities at both ends of the floor:
Kobe will start defensively against Russell Westbrook. D'Antoni: "I trust Kobe..."— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) December 13, 2013
Now, we've all seen the Mamba work some magic before. But this will require nothing short of a miracle.
He's all of two games and 57 minutes into his return from a serious injury. His rhythm (40.0 field-goal percentage, 5.5 turnovers per game) and conditioning are noticeably off.
He's still the best scoring option on the roster. Given this rash of injuries, he's probably the best distributor, too.
But how many burdens can one man carry? He'll welcome the challenge because he's Kobe Bryant; the next one he shies away from will be the first.
But he's still human, that Achilles scar is still real and Father Time is still undefeated:
Yikes. This won't end well at all. RT @Mike_Bresnahan Kobe will start defensively against Russell Westbrook. D'Antoni: "I trust Kobe..."— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) December 13, 2013
Absent any other options, though, the Lakers and Bryant will keep forging ahead. With crossed fingers and wishful thoughts, fans can only hope for the best.
Cautious optimism is once again a necessary crutch to carry this franchise along.