After acquiring two of the biggest names in basketball in the summer of 2012, getting swept in the playoffs, and finishing the regular season 45-37, the Lakers failed to meet expectations in last year’s underwhelming season. Since then, Dwight Howard has left for Houston and the Lakers acquired former Maverick, 7-footer Chris Kaman. Kobe Bryant has flown through the recovery process of his season-ending Achilles injury and Pau Gasol has been confident in the treatment he’s been using on his knees this off-season.
Gasol and Steve Nash missed a combined 65 games due to injury last season, and Lakers trainer Gary Vitti recently voiced it might be best for Nash to reduce his minutes this season. The Lakers kept Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks, Jordan Hill and Robert Sacre and signed Wesley Johnson and Nick Young to guaranteed contracts. Meanwhile, the Lakers also signed Shawne Williams, Elias Harris, Marcus Landry, Xavier Henry and Ryan Kelly as camp invitees who will be competing for final roster spots on the Lakers regular season roster.
Plenty has changed since the Lakers came into training camp last off-season, including their head coach. How does this season feel different from seasons past? At the Lakers practice facility Wednesday morning, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said it’s night and day.
“The underdog tag on us — low expectations, contrasted to a year ago. It’s night and day.”
It’s been awhile since the Lakers have had an underdog tag, and also awhile since Kupchak wasn’t able to clearly answer questions about the Lakers specific expectations this year. But, that’s to be expected when the Lakers don’t know the strength at which Bryant will return. The Lakers GM also admitted that he senses fans are already looking to the next off-season which could be “dangerous.” With the way the NBA is set up and the collective bargaining agreement, landing a huge free agent may not be plausible.
“It’s going to be tough to get players to move,” Kupchak said referencing the way the new CBA is set up.
As far as Bryant, Kupchak reiterated that there is no timeline for his return, and at the moment, no expectations. Though he’s seen Bryant running on the anti-gravity treadmill, Kupchak has not yet seen him on a basketball court. Kupchak joked though, that just because he hasn’t seen Bryant on the court with his own eyes, doesn’t mean he’s not secretly out on the basketball court at night. There is, after all, no controlling Kobe.
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