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He's Baaaaaack

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Tuesday night, for the first time all season, Kobe Bryant looked like Kobe Bryant.

That was bad news for the Clippers, but this is not a recap of that Laker win (Ryan has already done a very good one). However, more than just bad news for the Clippers, Kobe getting healthy is bad news for the league — and good news for guys who have to edit highlight reels for news programs.

For the first eight games back from off-season “minor” knee surgery, Kobe looked tentative, or worse. Against Detroit, his knee buckled while trying to cover Tayshaun Prince. At other times, the Kobe who would have gone flying to the rim with reckless abandon in years past was replaced by one that settled for outside jump shots.
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Then last week against Toronto we saw glimpses of the old Kobe (31 points) followed by the full-blown welcome back party against the Clippers. Kobe put up 20 points in the first quarter, 10 late when the game was on the line, and pulled the Lakers to the win — he shot 52%, the rest of the team 32%.

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Kobe scoring has been a bit of a chicken-or-the-egg problem for the Lakers -- when he takes charge, Lamar Odom and the other Lakers have faded into the background. The question has always been: Was it Kobe pushing them out of the spotlight, or did he need to grab it because without him the team was floundering?

That was moot in the Clipper game -- Lamar Odom still took 18 shots (although he hit just six), Luke Walton finished with 12 points and Smush with 15. Just to see if that was all for real, tonight the Lakers will take on their biggest test of the young season: 11-1 Utah.

AP Photo by Jeff Lewis