Kobe, Lakers will need time to get on same page
LOS ANGELES – In mind and spirit and body, Kobe Bryant was there.
But it so many other ways, it’s probably going to take a while.
Comebacks don’t happen overnight, something Bryant already knew. But there was still reason to feel triumphant Sunday night at Staples Center, even in a Lakers loss.
Eight months after tearing his left Achilles tendon, Bryant made his return. But to say he was the old Kobe would be incorrect. He isn’t, not yet.
Like a new player joining a team for the first time, the Lakers had problems finding a comfort level with Bryant, which showed in a 106-94 loss to the Toronto Raptors. But that shouldn’t have been a surprise.
They’ll need time. He’ll need time. Getting back on the court — even to a rousing ovation from a sellout crowd of 18,997 — felt strange.
“Weird,” Bryant said. “Really weird. I think the last time I had eight months off, I was still in the womb.”
The most notable aspect to his return was the fact his Achilles felt fine, although his legs need time. But there will need to be adjustments in many ways.
“It’s going to take him a while,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We knew that. That’s why the other guys had to really step up and play around him, and we didn’t do that. It’s going to be a little while to get his legs and get his timing back and the team to be able to adjust to playing with him.”
Bryant played almost 28 minutes and finished with nine points, eight rebounds and four assists. But he also made eight turnovers and missed seven of nine shots from the floor.
His shot was off, and so was his timing with his teammates. They weren’t always where he thought they would be, resulting his poorly-timed passes.
“It’s going to take some time for us to get that chemistry with Kobe,” guard Nick Young said. “When we get a couple of more games under our belt, we should be fine.”
It may take more than a couple. Playing a Raptors team that traded forward Rudy Gay earlier in the day and was short of reserves, the Lakers never had a lead. They gave up 62 points in the paint and committed 19 turnovers. No starter scored in double figures.
But in a way, this is like training camp; the Lakers are starting all over again. And it will require time for players to get comfortable with Bryant — or the other way around.
“It’s more me adjusting,” he said. “I’ve got to get used to the timing of the game, the speed of the game and where those (passing) lanes are, how quickly they close down and getting them the ball in the right spots. There were a bunch of times where we were just out of synch. It’s getting used to that rhythm.”
Bryant played seven minutes before taking his first break, but he didn’t score his first point until making one of two free throws midway through the second quarter. He had eight points at the half but was 0 for 4 shooting in the second half.
“It’s a matter of getting those game legs back,” he said. “The shot feels weird, running and cutting and being able to explode feels weird because you’ve got to get those legs back.”
It will come. He knows it will. So do his teammates.
But he understands it will take time.
“I’m still not sure exactly what I can do,” he said. “You’ve got to test it out and keep pushing and pushing and then making adjustments and corrections.
“It’s a heck of a challenge for all of us.”