Kobe Bryant is officially coming back on Sunday night against the Toronto Raptors. With regards to starting lineups and limitations on minutes, all that was set during Saturday’s Los Angeles Lakers practice.
Sunday morning, however, the Lakers had one final shootaround before Bryant would head to Staples Center and make his return. Bryant shot free throws before walking past a line of cameramen hoping Bryant would pause to give them a look or say something. He did not say a word. He did not stop. The Mamba focus was back.
Bryant may be back on Sunday evening, but this is no ordinary game, ordinary player or ordinary injury.
“We’re anxious to see what we can do,” D’Antoni said on Sunday morning. “We have a loose plan. As the game goes on, Gary (Vitti) and I will be talking the whole time, doctors are right there on the bench and they’ll be talking. And then, Kobe (Bryant) will be the ultimate decider.”
Four days shy of the injury’s eighth-month anniversary, Bryant will be back playing with a team of medical experts standing by.
“I’m just happy and excited for him—and us, as well,” teammate Pau Gasol said at shootaround. “I think it’s going to be hard to hold him back.”
Bryant’s competitive spirit combined with the adrenaline, buildup and publicity of Sunday’s return have everyone playing the guessing game. However, his return has been talked about positively by all teammates and coaches. There is a feeling that Bryant’s return with energize a team that is arguably the most energetic bunch in the league.
“Mostly, I think his presence as a leader for all the young guys will be very helpful, I think, encouraging and energizing,” Gasol shared his thoughts.
Lakers point guard Steve Nash, who is currently out injured, was also at shootaround and working his way back to fitness.
“I’m happy for [Bryant],” Nash said. “To see him come back is, I think, inspiring, and great for our fans. You know, they’ve been dying for him to come back.”
At 6:30 pm PST, the LA Lakers host the Raptors at Staples Center, and yes, he’s back.