Heading into the 2013 season, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers faced plenty of question marks. Aside from the uncertainty of how the team would respond to losing Dwight Howard, they began the year without Bryant, who was still recovering from his Achilles injury.
Bryant’s age and injury concern had him ranked the No. 25 overall player by ESPN. After losing another season to injury — this time a knee fracture — ESPN’s 2014 preseason ranking of Bryant is No. 40.
Bryant didn’t take too kindly to his No. 25 ranking and when asked how he would respond to the drop, Lakers head coach Byron Scott said he believes the 19-year veteran is amused by it, according to Ryan Ward of Lakers Nation:
Byron Scott on Kobe’s ESPN ranking: “I think he probably gets a kick out of it.” #lakers
— Ryan Ward (@Lakers_Examiner) October 17, 2014
Scott added he believes Bryant will ultimately get the final say, according to Lakers Nation Reporter Serena Winters:
Byron Scott said he saw ESPN rankings with Kobe 40th: "I think he'll have the last laugh."
— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) October 17, 2014
Thus far, Bryant has played in all three preseason games and is averaging 22.6 minutes per game. In response to his No. 25 ranking and the Lakers projected to finish 12th in the season, Bryant changed his Twitter avatar to “1225.”
Just as was the case with Bryant, ESPN’s projection of the Lakers also dropped, though not as drastically as they were picked to finish 13th in the Western conference. The Lakers did manage to add young talent in the form of Jordan Clarkson, Ed Davis and Julius Randle, though the Western Conference as a whole also improved.
The Lakers won 27 games last season, which was good for second-worst in the Western conference. Assuming all things are equal, they would need to win 22 more games this year to match the Dallas Mavericks total and qualify as the eighth seed for the playoffs.[divide]
Lakers Practice Report: Kobe Surprises Byron With Minute Proposal