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Kobe Bryant finally returned to the Lakers’ starting lineup last night and caused a few problems for the Lakers on offense. Mike D’Antoni said that disruption was expected, though.
Seeing as the team played its first 19 regular season games without Kobe on the floor, it wasn’t surprising to see the offense fall a little stagnant at times, especially when players such as Nick Young admitted to watching the Black Mamba go to work as opposed to getting involved in the game themselves.
“We knew it’d be kinda rocky,” D’Antoni said at practice today, “It’s kinda [like] going back to training camp and we’ve gotta figure out the right five, the combinations and get Kobe back up to snuff. It’s a little bit of a process, but we’ll do it.”
The mention of “the right five” is the second time in 24 hours that the Lakers’ head coach has brought up the idea of changing the team’s starting lineup again.
Pau Gasol had major struggles last night, going just 3-for-11 for 7 points and sitting out the entire fourth quarter, though it appears that D’Antoni will keep the banged up Spaniard in the starting five. At least for now.
The likes of Robert Sacre, who only played 10 minutes on Sunday night, and Wesley Johnson may be vulnerable to a demotion, though.
The idea of bringing more shooters into the starting five has been raised, with the possibility of Jodie Meeks or Shawne Williams potentially getting moved back into the starting lineup with an aim to space the floor now Bryant’s back.
While D’Antoni likened Kobe’s return to a training camp scenario, Bryant himself acknowledged that this is now his preseason, except this time round, the games actually count.
The Lakers play the Phoenix Suns at home on Tuesday, before heading out on the road where they’ll play four games in just five nights.