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Summer Dreaming: Who will have best Comeback story?

Taking an extra-early look at some names for top return to court

POSTED: Sep 1, 2015 10:49 AM ET

By Fran Blinebury

BY Fran Blinebury


Kobe Plays Left Handed

Kobe Bryant hurt his right shoulder on a baseline slam and plays the rest of the game left-handed.

Now we're into the part of our Summer Dreaming series where we've saved everybody eight months of waiting and handed out the official NBA awards for 2016.

Next up is a look at a few off-the-record categories, starting with our Summer Dreaming picks for Comeback Player of the Year, which the league has not handed out since the 1984-85 season.

There are big names on the mend from injuries and other names that just have to pull their act back together, all carrying chips on their shoulders.

So grab a cold drink and let's chug down the top 10 candidates for a make-believe honor that is all about overcoming adversity and fighting off doubt.

Send us your picks.

Summer Dreaming: Kia Most Improved Player of the Year

• Summer Dreaming: Kia Sixth Man of the Year

• Summer Dreaming: Kia Defensive Player of the Year

• Summer Dreaming: Kia Rookie of the Year

Summer Dreaming: Kia MVP

Summer Dreaming: Coach of the Year

Summer Dreaming: Executive of the Year

Summer Dreaming: First time All-Star

Kevin Durant Interview

Kevin Durant joins NBA TV in Orlando to talk about his foot progress and new coach Billy Donovan.

Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder: What could be a more impressive comeback than winning a fifth scoring title, a sixth All-NBA First Team and winning a second MVP award? A visit with Durant at the Orlando Summer League showed a man with a fire in his eyes and hunger in his voice to get back out on the court and wipe away the disappointment of last season's foot injuries. If you thought losing in the Western Conference finals to the Spurs was hard for K.D., not even taking part in the playoffs was harder. He'll be blazing starting on opening night.

Finals Media Availability: Kyrie Irving

Cavaliers star Kyrie Irving goes into detail about his season-ending knee injury.

Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers: If the All-Star point guard can live up to the optimistic projections and get back into the lineup for the start of the regular season, it might already be game-set-match in the Eastern Conference and we just write the Cavs into a Finals date for June. Irving and LeBron James had seemed to figure so much out just as Kyrie suffered the broken kneecap in overtime of Game 1 in the NBA Finals against the Warriors. Already a three-time All-Star at 23, a quick and complete recovery could take Uncle Drew and the Cavs to new heights.

USAB Scrimmage Recap

Paul George was carried off on a stretcher after suffering a gruesome leg injury Friday night.

Paul George, Indiana Pacers: Those six games at the tail-end of last season were just to get him back onto the court and get a feel of real, live NBA pace and action. Now with more than a full year of recovery and rehab from the horrendous broken leg in August 2014, the burgeoning star returns to the court with full confidence and resumes the upward arc to his career. It's a different Pacers team and a different look that he returns to as they're no longer an Eastern Conference power. A faster tempo should make the two-time All-Star stand out more.

GameTime: Parker Out For Season

Greg Anthony and Isiah Thomas discuss Jabari Parker's season-ending injury with a torn ACL in the left knee.

Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks: The No. 2 pick in 2014 was living up to the projections as the most NBA-ready in his draft class when he went down with a torn ACL on Dec. 15 of last season. Now he's returning to a rising roster that has added Greg Monroe, Michael Carter-Williams and Miles Plumlee. Parker might not put up spectacular numbers every night, but should quickly show why last year's Rookie of the Year wouldn't have been a runaway for Andrew Wiggins if he'd have remained healthy.

Bosh Thanks the Fans

Chris Bosh thanks all the Heat fans before Miami tips off against the Celtics.

Chris Bosh, Miami Heat: A lot of folks are picking the Heat as the team that could make the biggest jump in the Eastern Conference standings next season. So much of that depends on Bosh coming back from the blood clots that put him on the shelf last year at the All-Star break. With a lineup that includes Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside, a healthy Bosh gets to strut that stuff that was stifled for the benefit of the team during the four years of the LeBron Era.

Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers: What would the world consider a successful comeback? Making it to Christmas? New Year's Day? February? Bryant is back with all of his usual bravado, telling anybody who asks that the Lakers are capable of making the playoffs. If that were to happen and he is on the court playing a major role for all of it, maybe we should just skip this award and hand him the MVP Trophy. Nobody will have every step watched and analyzed more than 37-year-old legend. After playing just 41 games over the past two years, making it to April without another surgery will be a whopping success.

Love's Injury

Kevin Love leaves the game after injuring his shoulder while battling for the rebound with Kelly Olynyk.

Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers: OK, so now everybody has to believe that he's committed to the Cavs after wasting no time in signing a new contract. Maybe that commitment will convince his teammates — that's you, LeBron and Kyrie — to do more to make him feel comfortable, which could only make the Cavs positively formidable next spring in the playoffs.

Stephenson Addresses The Media

Doc Rivers and Lance Stephenson address the media about Stephenson becoming a new member of the Los Angeles Clippers.

Lance Stephenson, Los Angeles Clippers: No physical problems, just a need to bounce back from that absolutely horrible one-year experience in Charlotte. Sure, it was a bad fit in the Hornets offense right from the start with Kemba Walker. But Stephenson didn't help himself by trying too hard. Now Doc Rivers throws him a life preserver and the opportunity is there to boost a Clippers team that is desperate for scoring power off the bench to take the next step in the playoffs. The possibility is there to be a difference-maker.

Adams Posterizes Hibbert

Steven Adams takes the feed from Russell Westbrook and throws down a big dunk over Roy Hibbert.

Roy Hibbert, Los Angeles Lakers: Maybe it was unfair to lay so many of the problems with the Pacers last season at the big man's feet. It was a season that was derailed before it even began when Paul George broke his leg, crashed and burned. But Hibbert didn't help himself at all. Now he's with a Lakers team that needs a center in the worst way — hold the one-liners here, please — and he'll have to cope with the demands of living with Kobe. Here's a chance to crawl back out of the hole that he dug.

Inside The NBA: Wesley Matthews

The Blazers' Wesley Matthews speaks after suffering a ruptured left Achilles injury rendering him out for the season.

Wesley Matthews, Dallas Mavericks: If the Mavericks are going to have any chance of washing the bad taste of the DeAndre Jordan affair out of their mouths, Matthews will have to make a swift and successful recovery from a torn Achilles' tendon. That is the norm for that injury. He's promising to be in the lineup on opening night. But if Matthews can get back close to his old ball-hawking, 3-point shooting self by the second half of the season, he and the Mavs are both winners.

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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