Will Kobe Bryant’s Return Be an Audition for Free Agents to Join Lakers?

Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers still have work to do.

A season that promised mediocrity following Dwight Howard's departure has quickly become empty. Injuries have stripped the Lakers of depth and left them tied for the Western Conference's second-worst record.

With less than 50 games into the season, the Lakers are done. The playoffs aren't happening; miracles aren't happening. But that doesn't mean their season is over—because it's not. It has yet to begin in some ways.

There may not be a championship left to play for, but there are free agents to preemptively woo.


Will He Come Back?

Bryant has appeared in just six games all season, and after a Jan. 28 checkup, the Lakers announced he would be reevaluated in "approximately three weeks." That's hardly encouraging since it likely means Bryant's status won't be definitively determined until after the All-Star break.

And why even play at that point? Best-case scenario, Bryant adds a few victories to Los Angeles' win column, damaging the value of its 2014 first-round draft pick. Worst-case scenario, he re-injures himself, making the $48.5 million Los Angeles spent on him through 2015-16 seem like an even more reckless investment.

Isn't he better off sitting out the season and starting over next year, for both his and the team's sake? 

Of course not.

First off, anyone who understands how fiercely competitive Bryant is will know he won't sit out just because. He's pushed the boundaries of physical limits for nearly two decades and isn't going to stop now.

"You know Kobe’s scheming to come back," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said leading into a Christmas Day matchup against the Miami Heat, per NBA.com's Sekou Smith, "and getting ready and doing everything he can to push the envelope and be ready."

Bryant is going to come back. ...

About the Author