Bristol agents: Cracking the inner sanctum

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Kobe Bryant’s return not enough to keep Lakers from losing

first_imgAmid a tangible buzz normally reserved for playoff games, Lakers fans were standing from the time Bryant walked onto the court for pregame warmups. It had been eight months since he ripped his Achilles tendon on the Staples Center court.Let’s just say the Lakers seemed to play at the same level as Bryant, who was coming off a devastating injury and couldn’t be expected to rebuild Kobe in a day.“I felt good I was able to get in the lane,” Bryant said. “I felt like I could penetrate and get into the corner, which was a big question mark for me. Once I got in there I didn’t make the proper reads most of the time. But the fact I could get in there means I can improve. The explosiveness you can’t.”Physically, that’s the good news. Team-wise, it wasn’t pretty. None of the starters scored in double figures, but all five reserves did. Now come the adjustments. In Mike D’Antoni’s perfect world, the return of Kobe Bryant would be a nice integration into a team that had begun to form an identity, that his talents would begin to fit in, they’d all mesh and the Lakers could go about their business of winning games.“We feel like it’s a boost, not the cavalry coming to save us,” D’Antoni said Sunday.If you listened to Bryant’s reviews after his return to the court, it actually kind of was the cavalry. Or the product all those horses leave behind.The Lakers’ 106-94 loss to Toronto at Staples Center showed them that Bryant is back in some form, but it didn’t help much more than that as the undermanned Raptors led wire-to-wire. “It’s more me adjusting because I’ve got to get used to the timing of the game and speed of the game and where those lanes are and how quickly they close down, getting them the ball in the right spot,” Bryant said. “A bunch of times we were just out of sync.”The Raptors, with leading scorer Rudy Gay held out because he’s part of a reported seven-player trade with Sacramento, led by as many as 14 and responded every time the Lakers made a push.Nick Young scored 19 points for the Lakers and Xavier Henry scored 17, making 6 of 8 shots. But when the stretch run arrived, D’Antoni brought Bryant in for Henry.But they realize the season just changed for the Lakers (10-10).“We have a lot of things that are different,” Henry said. “We have point guards that are out so I have to play backup point guard. We have Kobe coming back, so everything shifts. Everybody just has to find their way and we’ll figure it out in due time.“Before long we’ll know what we’re doing, for sure.”Bryant missed his first two shots but had two early assists. The first shot he made was a leaning left-handed bank shot, but when his night ended after a 28-minute stint, he had nine points and eight rebounds. He made only 2 of 9 shots and committed eight turnovers.“Not to turn the ball over, I failed miserably at that,” Bryant said when asked of his expectations. “That was really the biggest thing for me, was just trying to take care of the basketball. I’m going to be in charge of making some decisions out there, but some of it is the guys getting used to where the ball’s going to be and me getting used to where they’re going to be and me being able to read defenses and me taking care of the basketball. This was complete failure to me.”At the same time, forward Pau Gasol also struggled, scoring only seven points on 3-for-7 shooting and drawing a healthy amount of boos from frustrated fans. At the same time, former Westchester High star Amir Johnson made his own return home and scored a career-high 32 points for the Raptors, who sent only eight players onto the court all night. Former USC star DeMar DeRozan added 26 points and guard Kyle Lowry had 23 points for Toronto (7-12).Bryant’s return, of course, came with concerns other than his health or conditioning level. The Lakers had to wonder how his infusion into the lineup might gum up the works.And at the same time keep the eye on the prize.“To win and start building a team that hopefully we can start driving to the playoffs and do something,” D’Antoni said, asked what he expected. “There’ll be a little bit of a sorting-out process to see what we need to adjust, and he needs to adjust to the team and vice versa and go from there. “Obviously, this is a boost and we’ll try to get him back to a level that he left.”Bryant was in the starting lineup and was expecting to get a run of minutes in the 20s, but as the Lakers chased Toronto in the fourth quarter, he was flirting with a 30-minute night.“I feel like I can run all day long. It’s a matter of getting those game legs back,” Bryant said. “Getting the shots feels weird, running and cutting and being able to explode feels weird because you’ve kind of got those game legs back. “It’s a matter of trusting certain things and also experimenting. You’ve got to be able to throw yourself out there and take off (from) the leg a little bit and measure. You can’t just shy away from it and put all the stress on the healthy leg, because you’ll wear that thing down.”When Bryant checked in during the fourth quarter, he tried to pass his team back into the game. He said he’s not in a catch-and-shoot rhythm yet, but the first hurdle was cleared. “You try to control (the emotion) as much as you can, but you can’t help but think of all the support, the hard work,” he said. “I’ve really worked my butt off this entire summer to get to this place. The amount of support’s been incredible. You can’t help but to think of that. You put it to the side as much as possible, go out there and do your job as best you can.”center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img read more