Everyone is already counting down the days until next season, and no one moreso than Kobe Bryant himself. After playing only six games this season, Bryant has already begun an intense training program in preparation for next year and he expects great things.
Bryant expects to come back at an elite level and he wants the Lakers to compete for a championship in his final two seasons. The Lakers will have a lottery pick and a lot of cap room to work with this off-season so there are sure to be plenty of new faces next year.
But with Bryant coming off two major injuries within the last year, and the Lakers having no clear direction at this point, no one knows what to expect. But the return of Kobe Bryant is sure to be the biggest story heading into the season.
So we asked our panel of experts, what would constitute a successful comeback for Kobe Bryant? This is what they had to say:
Kevin Chan (@kevin_cruiser): Plain and simple, it will be a successful comeback season for Kobe Bryant if he manages to stay healthy for the entire season.
This past season Kobe only played six games and never really had a chance to get back into game shape. Game shape isn’t something that can be truly simulated in practices. It’ll be encouraging to see Kobe return to the hardwood to start next season and hopefully stay on the court without any further injury issues.
If he can get back to averaging 35+ minutes, I’m sure Kobe will make an impact on the court, especially offensively. I’d define Kobe’s successful comeback season by the number of minutes and games he’s able to play. If he’s able to play 70+ games and average 30+ minutes it will be a successful return. I’m not worried about his on-court statistics because I’m sure Kobe will make his presence felt if he’s healthy.
As great as Kobe is, I have no delusions that he can carry the team on his back, especially in his twilight years. It’s hard to project what success would look like next year for the Lakers when we don’t know who will be on the roster.
We know Kobe and Steve Nash will be on the roster next season and as long as both stay healthy the Lakers should have a better season than this year. Beyond that it’s hard to predict. Obviously we would all love to see the Lakers get back to elite status sooner than later, but realistically I don’t see the Lakers contending for a ring next season.
A successful season would be if the Lakers are on the playoff bubble and show promise (think this year’s Suns or Timberwolves) going into 2015-16 where they could reel in a big time free agent that would give them a shot at contending.
Suki Thind (@TheRealSuki): Success for Kobe Bryant always ends with an elite individual season coupled with a championship. Those are just Kobe’s standards for being successful.
Realistically, a successful season for Kobe Bryant next season would be constituted by being able to be consistent in terms of impacting the game at an elite level, and more importantly, remaining healthy throughout. I wouldn’t expect him to carry the team on his back like he’s done in many years past, but if he can still dominate in spurts, that would be a great accomplishment for a superstar in his 18th season.
Team-wise, making the playoffs should be the first goal. But given that these are the Lakers and Kobe Bryant, that’s just not an acceptable goal.
If the Lakers can finish off a winning season by making some noise in the playoffs, though, then that would be considered relatively successful — especially if it’s the Black Mamba who is the still the main one orchestrating the team. It will prove that he is still capable of successfully leading a team even after a couple of serious injuries that virtually sidelined him for an entire year.
Ryan Ward (@Lakers_Examiner): Staying healthy while also producing at a high level. That’s it.
In order to stop all the talk of Kobe finally being over-the-hill, the five-time NBA champion needs to show no indication of slowing down. He was able to do that before going down with the Achilles injury and seemed to be coming around a game or two before suffering the knee injury, but now the majority feel he may be done.
I’d say averaging 25 points per game while also leading the Lakers into the playoffs would quiet the critics and re-energize a fan base that just suffered through the worst season in franchise history.
Personally, I believe Kobe is more than capable of accomplishing this feat. Despite that fact, I also believe it may not take much to put him back on the sideline with another injury.
At 36-years-old, Kobe will struggle right out of the gate. I’m sure the six-month training program that he just started will get him as prepared as possible for next season, but it will take some time to get back to form once the season gets underway.
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