Kobe changes tune on his debut

Kobe Bryant

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- After thoroughly ripping apart his play following the Los Angeles Lakers' 106-94 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Sunday, Kobe Bryant changed his tune after having a night to sleep on it.

"It wasn't as bad as I thought it was," Bryant said after going through a full practice Monday, a day after appearing in his first game in nearly eight months because of a torn Achilles in his left leg. "The turnovers and things like that, a lot of it was just mistiming. I made some pretty good reads, I got my guys some pretty good looks. In terms of a floor game, it wasn't as bad as I thought it was."

Bryant finished with nine points on 2-for-9 shooting, eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and eight turnovers in 28 minutes against the Raptors. After watching film from his debut until 2 a.m., Bryant even elevated the grade he gave himself from an "F" to a "D."

Neither of those are passing grades, of course. But Bryant believes that his approach to his first game back will still pass muster going forward.

"Do the same thing I did in the first game, just do it better," Bryant said of his goal his second game back Tuesday when the Lakers host the Phoenix Suns. "Just keep the turnovers under control and get my guys in position to be successful and see if I can't make a couple shots of my own."

Bryant said he felt better after practice Monday than he did even before the game Sunday, but Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni allowed that there are still steps for Bryant to complete.

"[We need to] get Kobe get back up to snuff," D'Antoni said. "It's a little bit of a process, but we'll do it."

Part of that process will be getting Bryant back in a position to close quarters and games out for L.A., something the Lakers struggled with in his absence. Bryant was not his normal clutch self against Toronto. He ended the first half by being blocked on an isolation possession and he finished out the fourth quarter entering a game that the Lakers trailed by seven and wound up losing by 12.

"We know, and everybody knows, he's got to be the closer," D'Antoni said. "As soon as we can get him there, the more times he is in that position, he'll get closer to doing it. I don't think there's any question about what we need to do. We just got to get better at it."

Bryant scoffed at the idea of his presence being something that could hurt the team even in the short term, pointing out that the Lakers' record without him (10-9) wasn't much to write home about.

"The chemistry will be fine," Bryant said. "It's not like they haven't watched me play for 17 years. It's not rocket science. It's not like we were gangbusters before. Guys know how to play with me, it will be fine. They got plenty of opportunities [Sunday] and we just got to capitalize on them."

Bryant, who said he decided on coming back when he did after three straight successful team practices last week followed by two encouraging individual workouts Friday, did not feel like sitting out longer would have cut down on the amount of time the re-acclimation process would take for him.

"The process is just getting those games in and getting that basketball rhythm," Bryant said. "That's why we have preseason. I've always had sucky preseasons. Always. It's just a matter of building your legs, finding your rhythm. Now, there's a little more pressure than there is in preseason games, so it requires a bit more work from me in-between games to get ready."

Bryant is selling himself short somewhat. Last preseason, he averaged 20.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists on 50 percent shooting, playing 26.8 minutes over five games. His last full preseason before that (2011-12 was shortened to two exhibition games because of the lockout and Bryant only played in one of them) was more of the "sucky" variety, as Bryant averaged 12.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.0 assists on 28.2 percent shooting, playing 21.6 minutes over seven games.

That pressure from a schedule full of meaningful games that Bryant referred to doesn't get any easier. After the Phoenix game, L.A. goes on the road for four games in five nights, starting things off in Oklahoma City on Friday.

"Once you kind of jump into it, you just got to go for it," Bryant said of the trip. "Just take care of your body, get proper rest -- we all do -- and see what we can do."

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