Why the Los Angeles Lakers Are Handling Kobe Bryant’s Return Perfectly

The Los Angeles Lakers owe the Chicago Bulls a debt of gratitude.

No, not just because former general manager Jerry Krause's poor relationship with Phil Jackson may well have driven the Zen Master out of the Windy City after the Bulls' last championship season—though the result of that split is certainly worth pondering on the occasion of Jackson's 68th birthday.

And not just because Michael Jordan laid out a blueprint for brilliance that Kobe Bryant later followed about as closely as anyone has or likely ever will.

Rather, in the smaller, more immediate picture, it's another blueprint put forth by the Bulls—that of how not to handle a superstar's recovery in the media—that LA appears to be following with the Black Mamba, wittingly or otherwise.

The Lakers have already gone out of their way to avoid a recovery-related debacle like the one into which the Bulls fell with Derrick Rose last season. As Lakers spokesman John Black recently told Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, "We're going to avoid giving a target return date until he's doing full weight-bearing running and on-court basketball activities, at the earliest."

Black's update on the Mamba's condition wasn't bleak by any means, though he made it clear that Kobe's return will be contingent on much more than just the condition of his surgically repaired Achilles tendon:

He's progressing well and has met all the targets and milestones of his rehab, and we expect him to make a full recovery. One of the key issues is to make sure he builds up strength and endurance not only in his Achilles but also in his legs, knees, back and core.

Notice how the Lakers deftly mention their expectation of Bryant's complete recovery without suggesting when that moment might arrive. By not placing any time constraints on it whatsoever, the Lakers have essentially insulated themselves fr...

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