Kobe Bryant falling victim to another horrendous injury is no joke and certainly not a good thing for the NBA. But in a peculiar way, nothing better could have happened for the Los Angeles Lakers. Bryant is lucky that the injury requires no surgery and “only” six weeks recovery time, but the reality is that there is no reason he should come back this season.
I completely agree with Charles Barkley, who said on TNT that the Lakers should shut down Kobe Bryant for the season. There is absolutely no benefit to Bryant returning and preserving his machismo in an effort to prove that he can sustain a level of greatness in the NBA. Father Time may be knocking on the door and nearly two decades in the NBA is a lot of wear on one human body. Even if he returned right at the six week mark, I would put my money at Sports Betting Dime on him having absolutely no chance at getting the Lakers past the first round.
Kobe had a sluggish start in returning from his injury. However, he began to show promise of returning to form in the latter half of his six-game stint this season so far, two games in which he put up 20-plus points on at least 50 percent from the field and both times 100 percent from the line (granted on only a total of five free throws).
However, as expected, his game is increasingly predicated on jumpers and threes and he is not there yet with either shot. In his six games played this season, he was 3-of-16 from three. You could put Dwight Howard
the free throw line beyond the arc and probably get similar results.
|Kobe Bryant's shot chart for the 2013-14 season as of December 20.|
Kobe also clearly was struggling to mesh with his new teammates. The Lakers were above .500 before the Mamba returned and now they’re back below that mark. That’s not to say that the Lakers are a great team without Kobe—just that they had some chemistry that he did break. Eventually that’s going to be resolved but the best time for that resolution is in the off- and pre-season.
The reality is that the West is so deep—with 10 teams at or above .500—that the Lakers have no business vying for an eighth-seed…and it won't happen in 2014. I discussed the Kobe Bryant conundrum a couple months ago and this is the awkwardly perfect break (no pun intended) where Kobe can rest and truly return to full strength while putting Los Angeles in the best position to join the #rigginforWiggins campaign. (A more in-depth discussion about tanking is in the works for a future article so I’ll hold off on further discussion about that for now.)
My instinct says the Mamba Mentality will win out and he returns to the court as soon as he can but if he and the organization take a step back for one second, the best option for both Kobe and the Lakers at this point is to keep him on the bench in a suit.