Kobe Bryant’s Pending Return Does Not Make Los Angeles Lakers Legit Contender

All NBA onlookers have their timers set for Kobe Bryant's eventual return to action, but don't count on the Black Mamba leading the Los Angeles Lakers anywhere close to the promised land.

It should surprise nobody that the insatiable star is zooming past his expected timetable of recovery from an injured heel. According to ESPNLosAngeles.com's Ramona Shelburne, Bryant participated in five-on-five drills on Tuesday and left the door open for making his season debut before the month ends.

"Yeah, yeah I can," Bryant said when probed about his chances of playing in November.

Then again, Bryant would try to play if his arms and legs were all chopped off the previous evening. A day after he practiced, head coach Mike D'Antoni expressed some more caution, per ESPN LA's Dave McMenamin.

"I want to be a little careful because we're going to have a few games before he comes back," D'Antoni said.

Bryant's persistent urge for greatness is not well suited for sitting idly on the sideline, and that restlessness is not at all placated by his team's 5-7 start. But if the Lake Show can scrape out five victories without Bryant, what could they do with their leader reporting to duty?

Probably not as much as everyone would like to think. 

Last season, Bryant somehow found a way to make his 17th year one of his best. He scored 27.3 points per game on 46.3 percent shooting, to go along with 6.0 assists and 5.6 boards per contest. His 50.4 effective field goal percentage, which weighs three-pointers more heavily than twos, represents a career high.

However, it seems foolish to bet against Bryant, as his persona suggests he can will his way through every obstacle and perform better than ever upon taking the floor. But he's a 35-year-old who entered the NBA as a teenager, so he's already logged 1,275.6 minutes over his career.

That's a...

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