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NBA Preview from The Sports Network
Sunday, December 8th (All times Eastern)
Toronto Raptors (6-12) at Los Angeles Lakers (10-9), 9:30 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - He's back.
Kobe Bryant will make his season debut Sunday night, eight months after he underwent surgery to repair a torn left Achilles tendon.
Bryant announced he would return at home against the Toronto Raptors Sunday on his Facebook account. He was practicing harder and concedes there are things that need to improve, but Black Mamba is back.
"Getting a rhythm under my legs, as far as stopping on a dime, raising up and shooting," Bryant said. "And getting your game legs underneath you where you can shoot a jump shot comfortably."
Head coach Mike D'Antoni will ease Bryant, 35, back into the lineup.
"We won't know until we see him. But he can play any way," D'Antoni told NBA.com. "He can play below the rim, above the rim, beside the rim. He'll figure out how he will be effective, and then he'll come at you with everything he's got. That's been his M.O. and I think that's what he'll do."
Bryant was hurt in the fourth quarter of an April 12 game against Golden State when he tried to drive to the basket and collapsed to the floor in pain. He had surgery the following morning and was given a 6-to-9 month recovery window.
Bryant averaged 27.3 points, 6.0 assists and 5.6 rebounds per game in 78 tilts a year ago.
The Lakers have managed pretty well without one of the best in the history of the game. They improved to 10-9 with a 106-100 victory Friday night in Sacramento.
L.A. closed with 13 straight points for its sixth win in the last eight.
Pau Gasol and Jodie Meeks, who buried a pair of late 3s to squash the Kings' chances, led the way with 19 points apiece. Nick Young had 14 off the bench, while Wesley Johnson and Steve Blake scored 13 points each. Blake also handed out 10 assists. Robert Sacre, the Lakers' new starting center, had 11 points.
Also on the injury front for the Lakers, Steve Nash, another future Hall of Famer, could return next week from a nerve root irritation issue in his back.
The Raptors, who have taken footnote status for Sunday's game, have dropped five straight, including the first two on this three-game western trip.
They blew a 27-point second-half lead against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday, then lost 106-97 Friday in Phoenix. It was a two-point game at the half, but the Suns took the third by five to lead by seven, then held on in the fourth quarter.
"It's been tough all year. I don't know what else to say. It's kind of sounding like a broken record," said Rudy Gay. "It starts with the third quarter."
Amir Johnson led the way with 22 points off the bench, followed by 21 from Kyle Lowry. Gay had 17 points and 11 rebounds and Jonas Valanciunas also had a double-double with 11 points and 10 boards. DeMar DeRozan only managed 13 points.
Tyler Hansbrough left the game with a sprained left shoulder in the first quarter. He is listed as day-to-day.
The teams split last season's two meetings, but the Lakers have won five of the last six and nine of the last 11. The Lakers have taken 10 straight at home against the Raptors and Toronto's last road victory in this series came on Dec. 28, 2001. The Raptors are 2-14 all-time as the visitors against the Lakers.
12/08 10:26:03 ET