Jae C. Hong / Associated Press

Kobe Bryant, left, talks to Lakers teammate Nick Young before a preseason game against Denver in Ontario, Calif., in October. The Lakers, who are 10-9 without Bryant, have to figure out how he will fit into the mix as he returns from Achilles surgery.

NBA Beat: Bryant returns to action with dominance in doubt

Published: Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 - 11:04 pm
Last Modified: Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013 - 8:54 am

Kobe Bryant’s video announcing his return tonight against the Toronto Raptors featured his jersey surviving different climates, or you might say, weathering storms.

The same could be said of the Lakers as a whole.

While Bryant worked to play again after surgery for his ruptured left Achilles’ tendon in April, the Lakers have gone a respectable 10-9. Now they have to figure out how to integrate Bryant back into the mix.

So what does Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni expect from Bryant?

“That he’ll be a dominant player,” D’Antoni said.

Just what form that takes is still anyone’s guess. Bryant, 35, is one of the best scorers in NBA history but has never had to come back from such a major surgery.

Bryant showed last season he could pile up assists in D’Antoni’s system while still scoring in multiple ways.

Bryant had already begun using his high-flying style less in the last few years and did most of his scoring away from the basket. Of the 1,593 shots Bryant attempted last season, 975 were outside of the paint. That’s 61.2 percent.

D’Antoni and teammates have said Bryant has looked good in practices, but even Bryant would acknowledge games are different. Bryant averaged 38.6 minutes last season.

Bryant won’t start out playing heavy minutes, but the Lakers will need him to be the dominant player D’Antoni expects.

The contract extension Bryant signed (two years, $48.5 million) keeps him as the league’s highest-paid player through the 2016-17 season and indicates the franchise believes Bryant will be close to the player who averaged 27.3 points last season.

D’Antoni expects “there will be some rough spots” as Bryant plays his way back into game shape and learns to play with a vastly different squad from last season.

The Lakers are full of players from which many didn’t expect much production. In some ways they mirror Bryant, who for the first time has many doubting he can be a dominant player. Bryant has taken exception to anyone that has questioned he won’t remain among the NBA’s elite players.

Everyone will find out exactly where Bryant is when he starts against the Raptors.

“We won’t know until we see him,” D’Antoni said. “But he can play anywhere. Above the rim, below the rim, beside the rim. The guy can play any way. He’ll figure out how to be effective, and then he’ll come at you with everything he’s got.”

Trending up

Atlanta’s Kyle Korver has long been one of the best shooters in the NBA. Korver cemented his spot in NBA history by making a 3-pointer for the 90th straight game Friday night against Cleveland. Korver broke the record of 89 by Boston’s Dana Barros.

Korver’s streak began Nov. 4, 2012. Barros’ streak started Dec. 23, 1994, and lasted through Jan. 10, 1996.

Korver has made 52.3 percent of his 3-point tries this season.

Trending down

Since the 2012 NBA Finals, many statistics have been used to suggest why the Oklahoma City Thunder should play center Kendrick Perkins less.

The Thunder is a much faster team when Serge Ibaka plays center, and Ibaka is a much better offensive player.

Perhaps Thunder coach Scott Brooks has noticed, too.

Perkins is averaging 17.8 minutes, his lowest since 2004-05, his second NBA season. Perkins’ points (2.9), rebounds (3.4) and blocked shots (0.5) are on pace to be his worst since that season.

Last words

“I mean, if it gets any worse, who the (expletive) knows? I don’t.”

Brooklyn guard Jason Terry on the state of the Nets before they were blown out by the New York Knicks, who had lost nine in a row before routing Brooklyn, a team hit hard by injuries and coach drama.


Follow The Bee’s Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones and read more about the team at www.sacbee.com/kings.

Read more articles by Jason Jones



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