Pau Gasol Kobe Bryant

Lakers expect to have Nash, Gasol ready for training camp. Kobe… we’ll see


The Lakers are not going in the tank next season — they are going for the high lottery, they are going to come out and try to make the playoffs. The West is deep next season but making the postseason as a lower seed is not out of the question… if everything goes right.

Which mostly means guys are healthy and playing near their peak.

That was not the case last season. Forget Dwight Howard’s back, there was Steve Nash’s broken leg and residual problems, Pau Gasol playing through knee problems that required surgery after the season, and Kobe Bryant and his Achilles injury.

The good news, GM Mitch Kupchack told the Los Angeles Times, is that Gasol and Nash should be good to go at the start of the season.

“I spoke to Pau about two weeks ago for 45 minutes. He said he feels a lot better than he did a month ago. He was optimistic that he’d be ready for training camp. He does plan on playing three or four more years, and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t with his skill level.

“We saw Nash out here last week. If I had to guess, he feels he’s in the 90th-percentile of where he wants to be. We still have two more months.”

So… what about Kobe, who wants to be back during training camp and for the start of the season?

“Obviously, we’re all hopeful and we all know Kobe. When you guess on Kobe, he always tries to prove you wrong,” Kupchak said. “The reality is he’s doing what he should be doing. He’s making progress probably weekly.

“Does that mean five months is possible or it’s really going to be eight or nine or 10? We just don’t know. When he gets back in September, we’ll take another look at him, but he hasn’t been on a basketball court. It’s really premature to try to predict other than try to be optimistic that he’ll be ready for opening night or the 15th of November or the 1st of December or the 15th of December.”

When he does return, Kobe will not be the same player, he will be slower and his athleticism diminished. Because he is so solid fundamentally his offensive game should come through this pretty well — for the last several years it was less about his athleticism and more his ability to get to his spots on the floor.

But they will notice his decreased mobility on defense. And with Metta World Peace in New York and Howard in Houston, the Lakers defense could be a serious issue for them this season.

Still, it looks like they will have a mostly healthy team to start training camp.

James Harden: “I am the best player in the league. I believe that.”

James Harden, Stephen Curry
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James Harden was the MVP last season — if you ask his fellow NBA players.

The traditional award (based on a media vote) went to Stephen Curry (in the closest vote in four years), and that was the right call (in my mind). But from the time it happened Harden did not buy it. And he still doesn’t buy it. In the least — and he’s using that as fuel for this season. That’s what he told Fran Blinebury over at

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

Well, it’s a more realistic claim than Paul George’s.

“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.

“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”

That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.

I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?

It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.