To fill a gaping news hole in August without any NBA, ESPN has begun their summer forecast series and started with their predictions for the upcoming season in each conference.
In the East, Miami is the typical favorite with Chicago, Indiana and Brooklyn trailing behind. In the West, it is the Thunder, Clippers, Spurs and Rockets comprising the top four.
No Lakers you would notice. They do not appear until No. 12 in the West with a predicted record of 36-46. It is OK if you did not scroll down that far on the page.
Kobe Bryant did. And he is not too happy:
12th I see..
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) August 14, 2013
The wheels are churning from the uber-competitive Bryant as he continues to rehabe and return from a ruptured Achilles. Bryant certainly believes he can win a championship all by himself just by his presence. Having Pau Gasol back in a featured post role might also help a bit too.
It will not matter for the aging Lakers though if Bryant is not on the court. That is still a question. One that Bryant, again, hopes to answer in October.
Shaquille O'Neal told Time Warner Cable SportsNet(h/t Eric Pincus of The Los Angeles Times) that Bryant is aiming for an Opening Night return, something that would be completely miraculous if it were to occur.
I'm sure Kobe is going to come back early. Anything before nine months is early. Him making the first game, I wish him well. He's a very, very competitive kid. He loves the naysayers. He loves proving people wrong. When he put the rumor out there that he may be back the first game, best believe he's trying to come back the first game
Bryant certainly is not afraid to put himself out there and make a bold statement. And he wants to be ready to play on opening day.
So watch your back ESPN.