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.