Los Angeles Lakers new head coach Byronn Scott expects star shooting guard Kobe Bryant to play the full 2014-15 season. As in all 82 games. You know, the 36-year old Kobe Bryant that played in just six games a year ago.
Crazier things have happened.
Regardless of the likelihood of an aging Bryant lasting a full season and not missing any games, Bryant’s and Scott’s optimism at least means one thing: the Lakers’ superstar is finally 100% healthy again. After struggling through rehab from a torn Achilles and dealing with a broken bone in his knee, Bryant could be back to the player he was two years ago.
Which Kobe Can We Expect?
If you ask Kobe Bryant, he’s still going to be a difference-maker. He’s not as explosive as he was even five years ago, but he can still score with the best of them and he’ll still be a two-way player if he can help it. Scott predicts Bryant can play all 82 games and give L.A. 23-24 points per game. That’s a lot to ask of an aging star, but with little production expected out of the rest of the Lakers’ roster, Bryant should definitely keep a big role and have a chance at shouldering the scoring load.
Whether or not Bryant trying to continue to be a mega star works out for the Lakers is another question. But if he can hold up for a full season and is anything close to the player he was before going down with the Achilles injury two years ago, he certainly could shock the world. The good news here is that his knee injury wasn’t overly significant and can be returned from, while he’ll now be two years removed from a serious Achilles injury. That only increases his chances of getting some of his athleticism back and having two healthy legs – while this was questioned going into last year.
The other big questions is, if Bryant is actually there for every game, plays both ways decently and is still that elite scorer we’ve grown to love/hate, does it make a difference for the Lake Show? Right now the answer is only a tentative “maybe”. The Lakers might be getting a healthy (albeit aged) Steve Nash, while big man Carlos Boozer and point guard Jeremy Lin provide nice role pieces. Unfortunately, they took a hit in the size and rebounding department, as Pau Gasol jumped ship for the Bulls.
Regardless, if the Lakers are finally healthy and Kobe is Kobe again, they’ll absolutely be in the mix for a Western Conference playoff spot. Predicting anything more than a mere playoff appearance is just wishful thinking right now, though.