Monday Sports Wrap-Up: Kobe Returns, Gronk Exits
Here's what you missed this weekend in sports:
Sunday night saw the beginning of a new chapter in Kobe Bryant's storied career, Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski writes, as the Los Angeles Lakers star stepped onto a court for the first time since tearing his Achilles tendon eight months ago. During his long journey back, Bryant was forced to confront his own basketball mortality, acknowledging the need for his game to evolve to accommodate the inevitable physical limitations of age. He's proved in the past that he's capable of adapting, using an injury to his right wrist as an opportunity to develop his left-handed shooting skills. He still has a long road ahead, scoring just nine points and committing eight turnovers in last night's 106-94 loss to the Toronto Raptors. For the first time in his career, it's unclear just where Bryant fits into the Lakers, a group of scrappy overachievers with whom he has yet to build chemistry.
New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski suffered a torn ACL yesterday after a hard hit to the knees by Cleveland Browns safety T.J. Ward. After the game, a clearly remorseful Brown told ESPN's Pat McManamon that he made a conscious decision to go low in light of the NFL's rules against above-the-shoulder hits. "We have to play the way that they force us to," he said. We should expect to see more of these situations as the NFL takes stronger measures to appease the critics of league safety given the controversy over player concussions. Cracking down on shots to the head, however, moves hits lower and lower, and can have the unintended consequence of dangerous hits to the knees, with defensive players striving to avoid the fines and suspensions that have been generously doled out for contact anywhere in the vicinity of the head, neck or shoulders. Gronkowski's injury is unfortunate, but might urge the league to evaluate how best to address concussions without further endangering those on the field, given the magnitude of the player in question and the effect it will surely have on the AFC playoff picture.
The BCS National Championship Game gets an uncontroversial pairing, with the consensus top-two seeds facing each other in Florida State and Auburn. Fresh off escaping sexual assault charges, Jameis Winston and FSU flexed their muscle against Duke, while Tre Mason and Auburn outlasted Missouri and received some help from Michigan State, who defeated then-No. 2 Ohio State. As the Washington Post's John Feinstein notes, however, the fact that voters didn't have to strain to choose this year's matchup isn't proof that the system works, but rather a happy accident. Had Ohio State won, there would have been something poetic about voters having to choose between an undefeated team and a one-loss team for a tournament whose selection process is as polarizing as the teams playing in it. We'll just have to sit and watch a great matchup in a title game that's sure to be a shootout, waiting for next year when college football fans can finally experience at least a semblance of a real playoff.