Kobe is Back and It Wasn’t Pretty

In a game made interesting only because it marked the return of Kobe Bryant after eight months of recovery time following the ruptured Achilles tendon he suffered April 12, the Lakers played an awful game against a bad team, losing by an embarrassing 12 points to the now 7-12 Toronto Raptors.

From my vantage point, I think the game was lost due to mismanagement of personal by coach Mike D’Antoni.

Except for a single grimace upon being knocked to the floor, Kobe seemed to be playing pain free, though he seemed hesitant to shoot on several occasions, passing up several

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typical shooting opportunities to pass off, which, combined with apparent rustiness, resulted in him scoring only nine points, but recording four assists, while committing eight turnovers. But it seemed that opportune positioning more than reckless abandon was the primary reason for him pulling down a team high eight rebounds (tied with Pau Gasol). His most interesting stat, though, was the 28 minutes played, several more than anticipated.

But, D’Antoni’s use of the rest of his roster was the reason they lost a game that looked to all the world

like an easy win. First, Toronto is a bad team. Second, the Raptors were without their best player, Rudy Gay, who just prior to game time had been traded to Sacramento, meaning the the Raptors were without him and without the four new players they were to receive in the deal. Add in the Returning-Kobe factor, and it should have been a cakewalk for the

Lakers. However, D’Antoni made a couple of decisions that defy logic. First, his recent excellent play earned Robert Sacre a starting spot, but last night he had to exist the first half early,due to picking up two quick fouls. However, despite never committing a third foul, Sacre spent almost

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the entire second half on the bench as well. Even more incomprehensible was D’Antoni’s benching of the teams hottest shooter and for most of the game, leading scorer, Xavier Henry. Henry was red hot, hitting six of his eight shots, including two-of-three from behind the arc. And his reward? Buttock blisters from sitting so long. Henry spent a total of 14 minutes in the game, still finishing with 17 points, second only to Nick Young’s 19

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over his 29 minutes of play. Wesley Johnson had his worst game in weeks, scoring only a deuce in almost 25 minutes, and much of that time could have, should have, been Henry’s.

Still, with all of D’Antoni’s mistakes and with the rusty Kobe only hitting two-of-nine, the Lakers still might have won the game were it not for the career game played by the one and only…… Amir Johnson. Johnson, who over 452 previous NBA games averaged 7 points per

contest, hit on 14-of-17 for 32 points in 35 minutes. Henry might have matched or surpassed him had he been allowed to play 35 minutes.

Finally, Kobe has said that he feels fine after the game and is ready to go tomorrow night against Phoenix. Sadly, the chances of a Lakers win appear to be directly dependent on just who D’Antoni decides to let on the court next to him.

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