Baby-Step Benchmarks for Kobe Bryant’s Next Few Weeks

After eight agonizing months, Los Angeles Lakers fans finally got their wish as 15-time All-Star Kobe Bryant was back on the NBA hardwood Sunday.

Only, the return never really matched the pregame hype. Bryant looked like a 35-year-old that hadn't played an NBA game for nearly a year.

Because that's who he is. That's precisely what happened. And that's probably how he'll continue to look as he attempts to shake off eight months of rust and ward off the still-undefeated Father Time in his climb back up the NBA rankings.

Forget the superhuman efforts he's shown in the past; Bryant bleeds red just like the rest of us. His injury was serious. His road to recovery remains a steep uphill hike.

Those next-level efforts may still be in the cards. For now, though, there are smaller, more pressing challenges for the former MVP to overcome.


Finding a Rhythm

Count Bryant among the many who were less than impressed by his 2013-14 debut. Clearly, this wasn't the introduction he'd envisioned.

His Lakers suffered a 106-94 loss to the undermanned Toronto Raptors. Vino labored his way to nine points on 2-of-8 shooting. He looked to establish himself as a distributor, but that experiment quickly went awry (four assists against eight turnovers in 28 minutes).

Moments of brilliance weren't entirely absent, but they did come few and far between.

He held no punches in his self-assessment, stamping an "F" for his individual game grade, via ESPN L.A.'s Dave McMenamin. While every player returning from serious injury struggles to jump back in to game speed, Bryant's challenge was magnified by the number of new faces around him.

If anyone thought the need for patience stopped upon his return, it's time to think again.

"My rhythm is completely out of sync in terms of being able to read passing lanes and judge the timing of playe...

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