The main storyline for the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2013-2014 NBA Season is two-fold and Kobe Bryant-centric; first, how healthy will the Black Mamba be when he returns from the first major injury of his career, and second, will he prove to the franchise that he played for in 17 years that he deserves the maximum contract after this season ends.
There is no clear-cut answer for both. And only a wait-and-see approach could be the most appropriate response to those queries. The Lakers open the season without their superstar and leader and no timetable of his return has been set.
The 35-year-old shooting guard, who has had always a colourful and sometimes controversial 17 years in the NBA, also has an expiring contract after this season. Will the face of the franchise get the maximum $30 million or so deal to extend his stay in Hollywood? Will he take a major pay-cut—around half of max or below—to entice would-be free agents to join him in L.A.?
2013-2014 Los Angeles Lakers Projected Depth Chart
PG – Steve Nash/Steve Blake/Jordan Farmar SG – Kobe Bryant/Nick Young/Xavier Henry SF – Wesley Johnson/Jodie Meeks PF – Pau Gasol/Jordan Hill/Ryan Kelly/Elias Harris C – Chris Kaman/Robert Sacre
3 Things to Look Forward to in L.A. This Season:
1. No More Dwight Drama – Yes, the first positive sign for the Lakers is that Dwight Howard is already gone. No more distraction like last year’s “Dwightmare” when every game the question was if Howard wanted to be in L.A. or not. His replacement as the starting 5 for L.A. is Chris Kaman, a veteran who’s the anti-Howard; quiet and quite effective given the right environment and role.
Kaman, who has averages of 11.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocked shots in his 10-year NBA career, has been around the league already and actually played in L.A. too—with the Clippers from 2003 to 2011 before cameos in New Orleans in 2011-12 and Dallas in 2012-13.
2. Nash-Gasol P&R – Without an uninspired and unmotivated Howard clogging the middle, will the Mike D’Antoni-coached Lakers be a batter team on offense, featuring endless pick-and-rolls between Nash and Gasol? Both these veterans had a down last season—Nash only averaged 6.7 assists and Gasol only 13.7 points, both relatively low compared to their career numbers, 8.7 dimes and 18.4 markers, respectively. Can they be more effective together without the chemistry-killer named Dwight?
3. Kobe’s Comeback – Except for Dominique Wilkins of the Atlanta Hawks in the 1991-1992 season, no NBA player has been able to come back from an Achilles tear in the same level he was in pre-injury according to deadspin.com. Popular players victimised by a torn Achilles heel and were never the same when they returned were Elton Brand, Laphonso Ellis, Christian Laettner, Voshon Lenard, Mehmet Okur and Isiah Thomas among many others.
Another article from Reuters also confirmed the post-injury struggles finding “that from 1988 to 2011, 18 National Basketball Association (NBA) players suffered a tendon rupture. Of those, seven athletes never returned to play another game” and “the overall performance of the 11 players who did return to basketball declined after their injury.”
Will Kobe go the Dominique-route and dominate again like he did before? Will he re-invent his game and find new ways to still be effective?
There’s also the contract situation which may or may not be a distraction to the Lakers squad in their campaign for 2013. Can anyone imagine Bryant wearing another uniform? Knowing Kobe’s dream obsession of anything Michael Jordan-related like winning six NBA championships, will he take the ultimate team sacrifice and take the pay-cut? Or will he jump to another contender next year in 2014 to chase Jordan’s Six?
Fearless Forecast: 28-54 win-loss record… A major drop from last season’s 45-win total. Why? Because that’s what you get when you have Nick Young, Jordan Farmar, Jodie Meeks to start at shooting guard for you in lieu of the Black Mamba. When Kobe returns, the Lakers will pick it up a bit but it will not be enough against a very tough Western Conference.
Other 2013-2014 NBA Teams Previews: