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NBA: Return of Kobe Bryant

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Sep 29, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) answers questions during media day at the team practice facility in El Segundo. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

After only playing 82 games, equivalent to one full NBA season, over the last two years, Kobe Bryant made his triumphant return to the practice court with the Los Angeles Lakers yesterday. This will be his 19th season as a professional in the association and his first under new head coach Byron Scott.With an aging roster coming off a 27-55 record, expectations for Bryant and the Lakers are still set at the Championship level. Why?
For the first day of training camp, Kobe sets the tone by showing up in a shirt with the word “RINGSSSSS” on the front, as if LakerNation needed more fuel to the fire. From my own experience, going to Staples Center last year was dreadful in comparison to years past. Sure the pictures of Kobe lines the walls and his body sat on the bench, but him missing from the basketball court made it all seem hollow. Now that he has returned, fans can gain the excitement back along with championship aspirations that are really misplaced for the 36-year old future hall-of-famer. But that is not Kobe’s fault…

The NBA is a different animal than it was when Bryant last one a title in 2010. You don’t have to look any further than his teammates for starters. Steve Nash and Carlos Boozer are on their farewell tours, and the other younger teammates are more space fillers than specialists.

"“He would expect guys to play like him”, says Byron Scott. “To have that type of passion that he has for the game…and guys these days just don’t have that like he does. He’s a dying breed.”"

I was not surprised that Coach Scott had to ask Bryant to take it down a notch during their first practice, lasting more than 2.5 hours of continuous running and old school drills. Kobe is the hardest working athlete in the league.

"“The Achilles’ injury just ignited a new challenge for me personally, to see if I can do this right, because you don’t know” says Bryant. “So it’s a challenge that presented itself to see if I can make this a successful comeback.”"

The Lakers finished fifth in the Pacific Division and more importantly second in the LA market to their arena-mate Los Angeles Clippers. The Western Conference did not get any easier for them this season as younger talent migrated from the Eastern Conference.

Trust me, nobody would like to see Bryant get a sixth ring more than me, but I have to be realistic about his return. Right now I am just excited to see him play and LakerNation should expect the same.

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