Posted October 22, 2013 on AP on Fox
Kobe Bryant has spent half of his life in a Los Angeles Lakers uniform, and he's not comfortable sitting on the sideline while his teammates play without him. Yet Bryant's health is just one concern surrounding the Lakers as they begin a season of profound transition. Dwight Howard's decision to take less money to sign with Houston last July removed a cornerstone of the Lakers' rebuilding plan and put their short-term future into flux. Bryant's torn Achilles tendon last April also left Los Angeles without its top player for the short term, with no firm idea when he'll return. Pau Gasol and Steve Nash will attempt to hold the team together until Bryant is back to something close to full strength. ''It's really important for us to embrace these low expectations, try to find a chemistry and build ourselves into a team that has some confidence,'' Nash said. ''Let's not talk about championships right now.'' The 16-time NBA champions are nobody's pick for a title, even with a roster featuring three likely Hall of Fame players. But in transition, the current Lakers see opportunity. Coach Mike D'Antoni is hoping the Lakers' new roster is more suited to his style of play. Several free-agent signees - Nick Young, Wesley Johnson, Chris Kaman, Jordan Farmar, Shawne Williams - are hoping to play their way into a long-term job after burning out with other franchises. ''We may not be as talented at the top like last year, but I think we got younger, more athletic with more shooters who can space the floor,'' Nash said. ''I think it looks as though we've gone from a favorite to being a non-contender, (but) we've still got the opportunity to build a really great team if we can find a way to play that can be really successful.'' Here are five reasons to watch the Lakers' season of transition: PAU UNDER PRESSURE: With Andrew Bynum and Howard elsewhere, Gasol is the Lakers' man in the middle again. If he proves he's still an elite NBA center, he might be able to keep the Lakers in playoff contention - and he'll earn a major contract when his current deal expires in the summer. ''I don't look at this as the last ride, but you never know,'' Gasol said. ''I've learned to live my life on a daily basis and try to have fun in the process.'' OLD MAN NASH: The 39-year-old Canadian point guard is the NBA's oldest player this season, a distinction that doesn't exactly thrill him. The two-time MVP thinks he's still got plenty of fuel to challenge the league's best at his position, and while Bryant is out, he doesn't have to give up his favored role as the D'Antoni offense's primary facilitator. If Nash stays healthy and demonstrates he's still one of the best point guards in NBA history, the Lakers will be better - and more interesting. LOCK IT DOWN: D'Antoni's teams have never been known for their shutdown defense, and that's unlikely to change much this season. Howard's shot-blocking presence was maybe his biggest contribution to last season's Lakers, and Bynum was an elite defensive player before his departure. Gasol and Kaman probably can't match them. They've also lost Metta World Peace, whose defensive reputation and pure toughness sometimes outstripped his actual contributions on that end of the court. The Lakers must establish a new defensive identity, particularly if they're unable to outscore teams on pure offensive talent. HOMECOMING SEASON: The Lakers brought in reinforcements from their glorious past to encourage optimism for the future. D'Antoni added former Lakers players Kurt Rambis and Mark Madsen while overhauling his coaching staff with two respected, veteran voices. Los Angeles also re-signed Farmar, a backup point guard on the Lakers' two most recent championship teams. He left to spend time with the Nets and in Turkey before returning to compete for playing time with Steve Blake, giving D'Antoni two solid options behind Nash. WAIT `TIL NEXT YEAR: Lakers fans aren't used to losing. After all, their team has missed the playoffs just once in Bryant's career. But while they serenade D'Antoni with chants of ''We Want Phil!'' and boo the Lakers' likely struggles this winter, the savvier fans will remember the Lakers have oodles of cap space and a pick in one of the deepest drafts in recent NBA history. Sure, it's likely to be a difficult season for Hollywood's team. But the sequel prospects are tantalizing.
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
AROUND THE WEB
RELATED ARTICLES

Kobe: Anyone who thinks he's 25th best NBA player needs drug test

Kobe Bryant was the focus of a recent contrived controversy thanks to ESPN’s annual NBA Player Rank, which ranked the Lakers superstar the 25th best player in the league. Kobe immediately responded to the slight by changing his Twitter avatar to “1225″ — a nod both his rank, and another ESPN poll that ranked the Lakers the 12th best team in the Western Conference. Today,...

VIDEO: Chinese fan screams and freaks out when Kobe signs his jersey

How would you react if Kobe Bryant signed your jersey? It would be pretty cool, right? It seems it was a dream come true for this Chinese fan when the Black Mamba signed his Lakers jersey last week. The fan was situated away from Kobe in the crowd, yet luckily for him, Bryant somehow got hold of the jersey – along with a Sharpie pen – and threw it back to the screaming man after...

LeBron James says Kobe Bryant is “for sure” a Top 5 NBA player

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last week or so, you’ll know that ESPN recently ranked Kobe Bryant as the 25th best player in the NBA. Many players around the league disagreed with ESPN’s assessment, and LeBron James is no different. During a question and answer session with his Twitter followers, LeBron revealed that he thinks Bryant is still a Top 5 players...

Lakers News: NBA general managers say Kobe Bryant is second best shooting guard behind James Harden

He doesn’t need it, but here’s some more motivation for the Black Mamba… In an annual survey carried out by NBA.com, 56.7 percent of the league’s general managers agreed that James Harden is the best shooting guard in the league. Kobe Bryant came second with 20 percent of the vote, followed by Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Paul George (6.7 percent) and Dwyane Wade (3.3 percent...

Lakers News: Carmelo Anthony on free agency, the Lakers and his relationship with Kobe Bryant

There’s still around nine months left until Carmelo Anthony will officially become a free agent. but that doesn’t stop the forward from talking about his future. According to the NY Daily News, Melo says he wants to stay in New York, though he doesn’t sound all that convincing: The Melo-drama Part II is under way in the wake of Anthony confirming that he plans to opt out of...

Five thoughts following Lakers' exhibition victory

LOS ANGELES Five thoughts following the Lakers 108-94 exhibition win over Utah. 1: Los Angelinos, get ready for lots of exciting basketball at Staples Center this season even with Kobe Bryant and his surgically-repaired Achilles' tendon likely to miss the first month of play. Meanwhile, you have the Clippers, and even though Blake Griffin has disavowed the name "Lob...

Kobe gets new source of motivation: NBA GMs pick Harden over Bryant

Throughout his distinguished career, Kobe Bryant has been well-known for using negative comments as motivational fuel for his play on the court.  Now in his thirties and coming off a career-altering injury, many are starting to doubt whether Bryant can be the same elite player that he has been in the past, including apparently, the NBA's General Managers. For the first time...

D'Antoni Has No Idea When Kobe Will Begin Practicing

The Los Angeles Lakers will begin the regular season in 10 days and Mike D'Antoni is unsure of when Kobe Bryant will begin practicing. Bryant is recovering from a torn Achilles. “I have no idea,” said D'Antoni. “He has a big desire to come back, but he understands there has to be a few steps he needs to take in order to come back,” Pau Gasol said. “I don’t think...

NBA GMs choose James Harden over Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade

NBA GMs think James Harden is the best shooting guard I’m assuming Kevin Durant has already seen the annual survey of the NBA’s general managers. If not, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before we hear KD tell us again that James Harden is better than Dwyane Wade. However, it looks like the NBA general managers also agree with Durant. But not just on Wade, also Los Angeles...

Tracy McGrady Feels Sorry For Kobe Bryant After Watching Lakers Preseason Game

Tracy McGrady took to Twitter Tuesday night as he watched the Lakers preseason game against the Jazz to say he feels sorry for Kobe, rehabbing back from an Achilles injury, for when he returns to the team. The Lakers ended up pulling out the win, 108-94, but T-Mac was not impressed with what he saw. Sitting here watching the Lakers, and I feel sorry for my boy Jellybean when he comes...

Tracy McGrady pities Kobe for the Lakers team he has to come back to

Tweet Recently retired NBA player Tracy McGrady has been a longtime rival of Kobe Bryant, ever since the two were neck and neck as the best players in the NBA. With Kobe still sidelined while rehabbing his Achilles, McGrady tweeted how he felt about this season’s Lakers team that Bryant has to play with: Sitting here watching the Lakers...

Mike D’Antoni Has No Idea When Kobe Will Begin Practicing

The Lakers will tip-off their 2013 regular season in 10 days against the Clippers, and Mike D’Antoni says he’s unsure of when Kobe Bryant will even begin practicing. “I have no idea,” said D’Antoni. “He has a big desire to come back, but he understands there has to be a few steps he needs to take in order to come back,” Pau Gasol said. “I don’t think he’s taken...

VIDEO: Get an inside look at the Lakers’ practice in Shanghai

The Lakers’ trip to China may have included an outing to the Great Wall and dinner with Yao Ming, but the purple and gold also put in some work while they were overseas. In the video below, which was posted by the NBA, we get an inside look at the Lakers’ practice in Shanghai. Aside from soundbites from Pau Gasol, Mike D’Antoni and Kobe Bryant, we also get to see the team working...

NBA GM’s Say James Harden Is Best SG In League, Not Kobe

Maybe Kevin Durant was on to something. According to NBA.com’s 12th annual GM Survey 56.7% of NBA GM’s say James Harden of the Rockets is the best shooting guard in the NBA ahead of an injured Kobe Bryant. 1. James Harden, Houston — 56.7% 2. Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers — 20.0% 3. Stephen Curry, Golden State; Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City; Paul George, Indiana — 6.7% 6. Dwyane...
Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.