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Back to square one: Can Kobe Bryant return next season?

What does Kobe Bryant's return from injury mean for himself and the Lakers?

Kobe Bryant is ruled out for nine months after a successful surgery on his right shoulder.

Having had a successful surgery on his right shoulder, Kobe Bryant has “once again” been ruled out of action for a considerable span of time. The reason I say “once again” is because it has happened for the third season in a row, that an injury has ruled him out for the rest of the season.

April 12th - Kobe Bryant suffers an Achilles tear in the win over Golden State Warriors, five days to the end of regular season; Recovery time – 8 months.

December 17th - He suffers lateral tibial plateau fracture in left knee in win over Memphis Grizzlies, 120 days to the end of regular season; Recovery time – 9 months.

January 21st - He tears his rotator cuff on his right shoulder in loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, 84 days to the end of regular season]; Estimated Recovery time –  9 months.

Bryant saw the lighter side of things through his tweets, when it came to his most recent injury:

This injury now puts him alongside Steve Nash on the Lakers injured list. The duo who are receiving more than half of the Lakers cap space together are nothing but bench-warmers, instead of first team players.

There are a number of questions looking ahead, can Bryant return? should he return? Does it make sense from the Lakers’ point of view for him to return?

Let’s start with the first:

Can Kobe Bryant return?

34, 35 or 36 whatever the age, Bryant’s crazy drive, which is fueled by the love for the game of basketball has seen him return successfully from his last two major injuries. An Achilles tear is a career-threatening injury, most players don’t even think of coming back. However, he did! Within eight months Bryant was back in action.

Despite getting injured within the next five games, the fact that he made a full healthy return still says a lot about the 35-year old’s capability. No matter how serious his current right shoulder injury might be, there isn’t and shouldn’t be a doubt about whether he can return healthy or not.

Should he return?

When you consider what is at stake for the Lakers, you would agree that Bryant’s injury is a blessing in disguise. All that the Black Mamba cares about is winning. However, the Lakers administration would like to finish in the bottom five, so that they could retain their top five draft pick.Otherwise, the pick would have gone to the Phoenix Suns, based on their deal for Steve Nash. 

Head Coach Byron Scott must have a plan to accomodate Bryant on his return

There are certain restrictions Bryant must consider before deciding on making a return to court:

-Minutes restriction: Days before his first game a minute to minute plan should be made in order to treat him well and not let fatigue sink in.

-Effectiveness: Bryant as a basketball player has nothing to prove to anybody in the league. He should study what situation his teammates excel in that they can win games as a team rather than depending on him.

-Right time: The decision to return to the court should be after multiple fitness tests including contact drills and scrimmages in practice.

What Bryant’s return means for the Lakers franchise:

Bryant and the Lakers would like to end their relationship on a high. Unfortunately, they will have to settle for a mediocre season since an NBA Championship is out of reach.

Next season will be his last under his current contract. Unless he takes a pay cut and actually helps the Lakers build a team around him for a title, the franchise and its fans should be more than happy with a 30 win season.

Both parties have a lot to benefit from next year. On one hand, the management will continue earning its profits as fans to continue to flock to the arena to watch Bryant. On the other hand, Bryant will savour the moment of overcoming more challenges at the highest level of the game in front of big crowds. 

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