SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant announced Friday on Facebook that he will make his season debut Sunday against the Toronto Raptors. Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni is excited about Bryant's return, but hopes his players aren't so excited that they are playing in awe of him.
"A lot of times they will stand around and watch him," D'Antoni said at the Lakers' shootaround Friday for a game against the Sacramento Kings. "We have been playing a certain way so we have to guard against that."
The Lakers were expected to struggle without Bryant, but have conjured a surprising 9-9 record. Bryant, 35, averaged 27.3 points per game last season before suffering a season-ending Achilles tendon injury on April 12 against the Golden State Warriors. The Lakers have used Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks at shooting guard in Bryant's absence.
The Lakers currently have practice scheduled for Saturday in Los Angeles. D'Antoni doesn't sound like he will be holding Bryant back upon return.
"What he brings mostly is one of the best players in the game and down in the fourth quarter you're not searching what you're doing, just his overall ability to be able to play well," D'Antoni said. "He will get guys to load up on him. He's carrying the wagon, let's everybody jump on it …."
Meanwhile, injured Lakers guard Steve Nash took more of a wait-and-see approach.
"It should be a slow progression," said Nash, who has been out since Nov. 10 with a nerve irritation in his back. "The most important thing is he hasn't had any setbacks."
Nash also took a measured approach on how good the Lakers can be once they're fully healthy.
"A lot of that depends on health. It also depends on the chemistry we can find," Nash said. "As we learned last year that it's not something you can make your own equation for and say one plus one equals two and we should be this. It's something that takes time and there is a lot of variables."
Nash is pleased to have no setbacks while practicing recently, but said he was uncertain when he'd return to play in games. He had hoped to return tonight against the Kings.
"The idea is not rush back and have the whole season," Nash said. "That will give me a chance to have some stability and play the better part of the rest of the season."