The Los Angeles Lakers welcomed Kobe Bryant back on Wednesday night after giving the 36-year-old nearly a full week to get his body rested, but Bryant's return did not have the desired effects.
First of all, the Lakers lost 96-80, which meant that LA had set a new season high with six losses in a row. However, the Lakers' loss to the New Orleans Pelicans hardly even mattered by the final buzzer. Bryant left the game with what appeared to be a shoulder injury.
In his first game back, Bryant's timing and understanding with teammates was a bit off, and the 19-year veteran finished with a team-high four turnovers. However, Bryant's shot was not entirely off, and he finished with 14 points on 14 shots. Only Jordan Hill's 15 points topped Bryant, and Hill attempted the same number of shots.
The Lakers would lose the game by stagnating on offense and only scoring 12 points in the fourth quarter. Most of that damage came while Bryant was on the bench, but Bryant's three minutes and 41 seconds of game play in the fourth quarter were a bizarre spectacle.
Bryant apparently signaled to the bench to come out of the game shortly after completing a dunk in the third quarter. Bryant would confirm that dunking the ball caused the discomfort with a head nod after the game. After receiving treatment on his sore shoulder on the Lakers' bench, Bryant proceeded to strap on a giant ice bag. The ice was removed shortly thereafter, and Bryant even took the opportunity to dribble balls in between timeouts to keep his shoulder loose.
He told his coaches he was fine, but after entering the game in the fourth quarter, Bryant preferred to dribble with his left arm. Then, he took a turnaround jump shot, but he only used his left arm. He made the shot, but that should have been a red flag. Still, Bryant stayed in.
Moments later, Bryant rebounded the basketball using only his left arm and dribbled up the court with that same left arm. When he attempted another left-handed jump shot, the Pelicans broke up the play. Moments later, Bryant pulled down another defensive rebound, and this time he tipped the basketball with his left hand before controlling it with his left arm.
Finally, Lakers coach Byron Scott called Wayne Ellington, and Bryant came out. He went into the locker room and began to receive treatment.
Asked about the shoulder after the game on Time Warner Cable Sports Net, Bryant sounded nonchalant about the potential injury.
Kobe downplayed sore right shoulder: “I averaged 40 a whole month on a torn labrum." — Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) January 22, 2015
"It's been bothering me for a while," Bryant said. "We make a lot of it, but the reality is I'm doing some pretty phenomenal things in 30 minutes."
Scott said Bryant would have an MRI on Thursday, and both the player and the coach agreed that it was too early to say whether he would be available on Friday night's game in San Antonio.