Kobe Bryant’s 20th NBA season will begin without delay.
Rotator cuff surgery in January ended up sidelining the Los Angeles Lakers great for the rest of 2014-15, limiting him to just 35 appearances overall. At the time of his surgery, January 28, the recovery process was supposed to take roughly nine months. If you do the math, that would have put Kobe back in action for November.
But Kobe is Kobe. He may be 37 years old, but the psychocompetitive maniac in him is still trying like hell to shatter his initial timetable. And, as Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak told USA Today‘s Sam Amick, it seems as if Kobe will do just that:
But as Kupchak noted, Bryant isn’t among the 10-plus players who have been working out this week at the team’s facility. After Bryant played a combined 41 games the past two seasons because of injuries – his last being the torn right rotator cuff that required surgery in January – the Lakers plan to bring him along slowly when the team holds training camp in Honolulu next month.
“My understanding is that he’ll be ready for camp,” said Kupchak, whose team has exhibition games scheduled at the University of Hawaii against the Utah Jazz on Oct. 4 and Oct. 6. “Knowing Kobe, he will try to participate in every practice in camp. But myself and (head coach) Byron (Scott) are going to have something to say about that. So I’m sure there will be a practice or two or three where we won’t let him practice, but I do expect him to be full bore at camp.”
Returning for training camp would put Kobe’s recovery more than one month ahead of schedule. That’s not surprising when, again, you consider this is Kobe. But there’s no sense in rushing this process, even if seems like Kobe is fine and isn’t pressing.
The Lakers have nothing to gain from a competitive standpoint by ensuring he’s ready well before or on opening night. They’re not going to make the playoffs as it is—despite what rookie D’Angelo Russell says—and failure to exercise extreme caution puts Kobe at risk of not finishing yet another season. He’s been absent from the Lakers’ campaign conclusion in each of the last three years.
Of course, the thought dynamics can change here if the Lakers are absolutely sure this will be Kobe’s last season. In that scenario, this becomes about putting him on the court as soon as possible, for as long as possible, so that the fans may say goodbye and the Lakers, while not competing for anything special, can offer him a proper, prolonged send off.
There’s also always the chance this is much ado about nothing. Maybe Kobe truly is fine and prepared to last the entire season, whenever it begins for him.
So, depending on how you look at the situation, Kobe’s ahead-of-schedule return is either comforting, unsettling or, in the grand scheme of things, changes nothing.