Mar 8, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant (24) reacts after making a three pointer against the Toronto Raptors during the game at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Game Twenty Preview: Lakers (10-9) vs. Toronto (6-12)

During the long off-season, all the possibilities of Kobe Bryant’s return were dissected.

 

When would he return?
Will he rush back?
How bad will this Lakers team be without him?
Will the Lakers be too far out of it when he returns?
Will the Lakers tank the season?

Seemingly rightfully so, this team resembled nothing of a competitive squad during the off-season. They were filled with draft busts, bench warmers, and even a player who wasn’t in the league last year. The coach was under fire all last season and fans had him on an impossibly short chain going into this season. The front office was under fire for losing out on Dwight Howard and only bringing in a bunch of veterans minimum players.

 

No one saw this coming.

 

The Lakers are 10-9. Mike D’Antoni is being lauded for his coaching ability. The front office look like geniuses as players like Xavier Henry, Wesley Johnson, and Shawne Williams are all key role players and have had big plays and games this year. They’ve won three straight road games, six of their last eight, and look like a team that could make a playoff run.

 

Oh, and the Black Mamba is coming back.

 

Kobe Bryant’s return was announced in an ever-so Kobe Bryant fashion with an epic video posted to his Facebook. It’s been a long time coming, after weeks of practicing and media coverage. The closer we came to tonight, the more inevitable it felt that Bryant would return. And in an interesting turn of fortunate, no longer are we talking about how this team will fit in around Bryant, but how Bryant will fit in around this unit.

 

This team has an identity. Can Bryant mold his game to fit that? Can the team mold their identity to adapt to Bryant?

 

X-FACTOR OF THE NIGHT

 

Really, is there anyone it could be other than Bryant? Bryant’s play is going to dictate just how the Lakers will do the rest of this season. They could float around .500 as they have been, or they could take off with the addition of someone of Bryant’s caliber. Either way, this season’s success now hinges on him. He’s not the x-factor of the night, but for the year.

 

NUMBER OF THE NIGHT

 

240. As in the number of days since Bryant last wore the purple and gold. It’s been far too long.

 

PREDICTION OF THE NIGHT

 

I’d be shocked if the Lakers dropped this game. Against an inferior opponent, at home, fueled by Bryant’s return, this should be a victory. Bryant won’t let them lose this one. 104-91 Lakers

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Tags: Achilles Injury Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers Preview Return Toronto Raptors

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