Below are five things to take from the Lakers’ 106-94 loss to the Toronto Raptors Sunday at Staples Center:
1. Kobe Bryant showed rustiness. OK, so no one expected Bryant would match the career-high 81 points he set 7 1/2 years ago against the Raptors. But if his introductory Darth Vader music and the rousing ovation he received at Staples Center didn’t give it away, plenty of hype awaited Bryant’s return. His nine points on two of nine shooting and eight turnovers, however, shows the Lakers star has plenty of work to do in adjusting his game post Achilles.
Bryant took on largely a facilitating role to accommodate for his diminished athleticism and rustiness, resulting in eight rebounds and four assists. But everything appeared slightly off key. His first shot attempt – a six-foot left hook — air balled. Several of Bryant’s passes either entered traffic or were off target. Bryant even attempted two charges, a tactic he once dismissively called a “chump move.”
In fairness to Bryant, he had his moments. Bryant’s first play involved setting Robert Sacre up for an easy layup. Bryant made a left-handed bank shot after a possession where he performed two pump fakes and several jab steps, a sequence that epitomized his superior fundamentals. Bryant also made a deep jump-shot that roused the Staples Center crowd. Bryant showed a genuine effort to involve his teammates, including a hockey assist that led to a Wesley Johnson dunk . But considering the high standard Bryant sets for himself, he’s obviously a work in progress.