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Saturday, December 7, 2013
Top stats to know: Kobe Bryant's return

By ESPN Stats & Information


Danny La-USA TODAY SportsThe Los Angeles Lakers will welcome back Kobe Bryant Sunday night against the Toronto Raptors.

In an April 12 game against the Golden State Warriors, Kobe Bryant hit the deck after tearing his left Achilles and missed the final two games of the season and the playoffs. Two hundred forty days later, Bryant will make his Los Angeles Lakers return against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday.

Making History
Bryant had the best season ever by a player in his 17th season or later in terms of scoring last season. He averaged 27.3 points per game, 3.9 points per game more than the previous record set by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in his 17th season during the 1985-86 season.

The record for the highest single-season scoring average by a player in his 18th season or later belongs to Karl Malone. He averaged 20.6 points per game in his final season with the Utah Jazz.

Approaching records
Bryant is one of five players in NBA history with 30,000 career points. Currently fourth on the all-time scoring list, Bryant is just 676 points away from passing Michael Jordan for third. In NBA postseason history, Bryant is third on the all-time scoring list, just 348 points away from passing Jordan for first.

If Kobe has his sights on passing Abdul-Jabbar for first on the all-time scoring list, he’ll need to play past his current contract which ends in 2015-16. If Bryant averages 25.0 points the rest of the way, he’ll need to play three full 82-game seasons and then 25 more games on top of that.

Style of Play Change
The Lakers have used a more traditional Mike D’Antoni offense without Bryant this season, using pick-and-roll plays (including passes) at the fifth-highest rate in the league, compared to the 20th-highest rate last season. The Lakers are relying more on catch-and-shoot plays, one reason why they lead the league with 10.7 made 3-pointers per game.

Recruiting Skills
Bryant signed a two-year contract extension for $48.5M on November 25th, maintaining his status of the highest-paid player in the league. This summer looms large for the Lakers, who currently have three players under contract in 2014-15 for a total of $34.1M in guaranteed money. The projected salary cap for next season is $62.9M and the Lakers could gain more space by using the stretch-provision on Steve Nash (he would be released and his $9.7M contract would be spread over three seasons).