Kobe Bryant is just minutes from his return, but he has already made an impact on his teammates. Most of this Lakers team is young, and they looked up to Kobe when they were growing up. His return will impact them in many ways, including influence. According to USA Today, it has already started:
“I’ve seen in the past what made him so great and unique: his dedication, his work ethic to get back, to not just be the best or what he’s been pretty much the majority of his career, but to get back now from his injury,” Gasol told USA TODAY Sports. “It has been incredible. He’s been very impressive all along the way.”
“Oh man, it’s unbelievable how hard he’s fought,” said Young, who signed as a free agent in July in large part because Bryant’s absence created a unique opportunity with his hometown team. “We were hanging out one night (in China), just watching TV — chilling and hanging out — and it was like two in the morning, and he just said, ‘I’m about to go jog.’ He was up at two in the morning, running the treadmill. I thought he wasn’t going to make it to (the Lakers’ shootaround the next morning) at 8.
“He ran from 2 to 4 (a.m.), then we came into shootaround and he was there on the table getting treatment. I thought he wasn’t going to make it. He was there between six or seven. He said he worked out five times a day.”
“I saw him quite a bit throughout the summer because I’d be in the gym, and it kind of motivated me seeing a man of his stature and his greatness work so hard to get back at that age,” Sacre told USA TODAY Sports. “It was inspiring for me to always stay motivated and stay up on my game. I saw him every day, and just the way he carried himself. He knows he has to get better and be ready for this time. It drove me to get better.”
Bryant is returning to 10-9 team, and if he can play in the flow of the offense, this could be a dangerous squad moving forward. He will also attract a lot of attention, and that could make things easier for his teammates on the floor as well. His return is not only good for the Lakers, but the entire NBA is going to benefit from his return.
All the rehab, all the hard work, and all the anticipation will come to fruition on NBA TV at 9:30 ET as the Lakers take on the Raptors. I’ll set the over/under for his points at 81.