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From Ross Gasmer, Lakers Nation: Incredibly enough, we’re just three days away from Lakers basketball as they’ll play their first preseason game of the season on Saturday against the Warriors. While Pau Gasol and Steve Nash will be limited, game one of the preseason should allow players like Shawne Williams, Elias Harris, Chris Kaman and Wesley Johnson a chance to prove themselves. Every Wednesday this preseason, regular season and hopefully in the playoffs, I’ll be rolling out a trending up and down article about which Lakers are heading in the right direction and those heading the other way. Here’s who’s trending up and down after a few days of practice ahead of the first preseason game.

From Drew Garrison, Silver Screen & Roll: The Los Angeles Lakers will be without Dwight Howard going forward, in case you hadn’t heard. This will hurt most on defense, where the team ranked 20th in the league with Howard as its anchor. The Lakers won’t be able to replace Howard’s presence, but increasing Jordan Hill’s role with the team should be the first adjustment Mike D’Antoni makes. His defensive mobility and elite rebounding talents make him a valuable player for the Lakers. Hill isn’t a natural fit in D’Antoni’s offensive schemes. He shot just 35 percent from 16-to-23 feet last season, leading to D’Antoni urging him to work on his stroke during the summer. But what he can do for the Lakers defense makes him more valuable than a few percentage ticks from the elbow. His footwork, positioning and rebounding allow him to make a major impact on that end.

From Mike Bresnahan and Eric Pincus, LA Times: The doors opened to Lakers practice and the media spilled onto the sidelines to watch a bunch of players shooting, none of them named Kobe Bryant. Turned out he had done a little work earlier. Bryant is now shooting without jumping, the latest step in his return from a torn Achilles’ tendon. There’s still no timetable for his return, and he hasn’t started to run on the court. For now, he’s simply Set Shot Bryant. “He’s just going up on his tiptoes,” Coach Mike D’Antoni said Wednesday. “I don’t think he was jumping. It wasn’t flat-footed, but it was set shooting.” Bryant hasn’t spoken to reporters since last Saturday and is required to give interviews only once a week while injured, as per NBA rules. It’s unlikely he’ll play any of the Lakers’ eight exhibition games, and his status remains unclear for the season opener Oct. 29 against the Clippers. “As soon as he can be ready, he’ll be ready,” D’Antoni said.

From Dave McMenamin, ESPN LA: Mike D’Antoni had been the Los Angeles Lakers’ head coach for less than a month when he got into a heated exchange with a reporter after the Lakers lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Dec. 11 of last season, their fifth loss in six games at the time. The exchange was prompted by questions about his approach to coaching defense. D’Antoni seemed to have the spat fresh in his mind when a different reporter asked him after practice Wednesday what percentage of training camp he spends on defense versus offense. “I would say 99.9 (percent) on defense and 0.1 on offense,” D’Antoni said with a sarcastic smile. “Does that satisfy you guys?” He was making a joke with the over exaggeration, but the truth is, the coach actually has been making an effort to get his team to understand that their success this season will start with stops on the defensive end. “It seems like he’s harping a little bit more on defense now,” Shawne Williams, who played for D’Antoni in New York, told ESPNLosAngeles.com. “He’s spending more time on defense. It used to just be a lot of offense and he used to try to tell us, ‘Defense comes from within,’ but now, everything starts with defense and then we let that dictate the offense.” Seven seconds or less? More like consecutive stops or else.

From Phillip Barnett, Lakers Nation: One of the most ubiquitous sports debates revolves around the greatest basketball player of all time. It’s a difficult one because every decade adds or takes something away from the game, making it hard to compare players across eras. We can go back and watch the games, but different players found success against different competition in different ways. Michael Jordan is widely regarded as the best basketball player of all time, but he isn’t nearly the most winningest player of all time (Bill Russell) and trails Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in all time scoring. Then there are guys like Kobe Bryant, who is regarded as the best player from the Jordan era, and LeBron James, NBA’s reigning NBA and Finals MVP.

From Dave McMenamin, ESPN LA: Perhaps partly because Dwight Howard is out of the picture, perhaps partly because Pau Gasol is far healthier than last season (OK, mostly because Howard is out of the picture), Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni has made an about-face from his initial coaching instincts when counting on Gasol’s services. Remember when Gasol was benched late in games last season? Or relegated to sixth man status? Or positioned on the perimeter when he was on the court and encouraged to attempt the most 3-pointers of his 12-year career? Not the case anymore. Just three days into training camp, D’Antoni has already named two definitive starters while Kobe Bryant is out: Gasol at center and Steve Nash, his longtime pupil, running the point. And expectations are high for the former four-time All-Star in the middle.

From Ben Bolch, LA Times: It’s a line Steve Nash would rather leave off a resume that includes two most-valuable-player awards, 10,249 assists and a record 90.4% accuracy on free throws. He’s now the oldest player in the NBA. “It’s not a privilege I ever really dreamed about,” the 39-year-old said Saturday while encircled by reporters during Lakers media day. “It’s pretty strange and I guess surreal in a way.” That would make it like everything else Nash has experienced since becoming a Laker. Weird has become the new normal for a usually durable player who last season appeared in only 50 games because of injuries and was transformed into a hybrid shooting guard even though he’ll enter the Hall of Fame as one of the all-time-great point guards. Nash’s first season as a Laker included one perplexing development after another. Instead of running the pick and roll, he would largely linger on the perimeter to stand and wait. As opposed to making jaw-dropping plays, he was more likely to be involved in bickering-with-teammate exchanges. Rather than leading his team deep into the playoffs, he was spearheading the charge into the trainer’s room.

From C.A. Clark, Silver Screen & Roll: For centuries, before the existence of radar, before radios and satellites and cell phones and airplanes, the only way to get from one part of the world to another not connected by land was to pile into a ship and set sail across the ocean. A few days out, you could not see the land from whence you came. All you could see is a vast expanse of blue, spread out in all directions. Voyages often took months; months with nothing to do but handle your daily responsibilities, months in which your routine is all you had. Imagine the boredom of being stuck in a confined space with the same hundred or so individuals. Imagine the insanity of having to do the exact same thing you did the day before because there are no other options. Imagine the fear of not knowing when, or even if, your journey might finally come to an end.

From Serena Winters, Lakers Nation: Injuries were the main topic of conversation at today’s Lakers practice. Head Coach Mike D’Antoni said both Steve Nash and Pau Gasol practiced in full for the most part yesterday, with the exception of a drill at the end of practice. The Lakers are currently holding two-a-day practices, but Nash and Gasol are the exceptions, practicing only once per day. D’Antoni said Kobe Bryant is in every film session and on the sidelines watching what’s going on. There was a general message, though, that the vibe around the Lakers practice facility was completely different than last year. D’Antoni said Steve Nash noticed it and told him the other day. “It feels good. Last year it was tough, just from the start,” said Nash. It was hard to feel a lot of positive energy. It always seemed like a challenge whereas this year it feels a bit more like a team.” Though Nash said he couldn’t predict how well the Lakers would do this year, there was positive energy all around.

From Brett Pollakoff, Pro Basketball Talk: As the Lakers opened training camp with media day on Saturday, the first questions posed to Kobe Bryant were ones about his recovery from the torn Achilles injury he suffered back in April near the end of the regular season. Bryant seemed to be in good spirits, and is feeling optimistic about the way his rehabilitation has progressed. But he wasn’t willing to set any kind of range in terms of a target date when we might see him back in action. From Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles: “I don’t think we really have a particular timetable as far as where I should be right now, but I’m feeling good,” Bryant said. The team’s original timeline for the recovery of Bryant, who had surgery to repair the Achilles in April, was six to nine months. “Everybody was really concerned about this injury, and so was I, but the procedure and the therapy right afterwards and things like that really got me ahead of the curve,” Bryant said. “So, it feels like the hard part’s over.”

From Mike Bresnahan, LA Times: Good news for the Lakers: Almost everybody on their team is in a contract year. Bad news for the Lakers: Almost everybody on their team is in a contract year. Such players have incentive to deliver with an added hunger, according to the long-held sports theory. But if the team starts to disintegrate in the standings, will individuals start jacking up shots to pad their stats? “They’re more professional than that. You’re not going to have any selfish play,” said Coach Mike D’Antoni. What if they start thinking dollars instead of sense? “They probably won’t be playing a whole lot. It kind of takes care of itself,” D’Antoni said. Steve Nash, Robert Sacre and Nick Young are the only Lakers with contracts after this season. Young holds a player option for a relatively small $1.2 million in 2014-15, meaning he’ll look for more money if he has a solid season. “Guys are going to go all out,” said Pau Gasol. “That’s the positive part of it. There’s no security for next season. You’re in a position to give it your best, give it your all, earn your next paycheck, next contract.

From Dave McMenamin ESPN LA: Ever since the Lakers tried to trade him to Houston in a three-team deal to acquire Chris Paul back in Dec. 2011, Pau Gasol has often felt like he’s been on borrowed time in Los Angeles. The trade rumors have swirled so much in the last couple of years that the four-time All-Star has taught himself to avoid fretting about the future and rather thrive in the present.  “I’ve learned to live my life on a daily basis and try to have fun in the process,” Gasol said after the first of the Lakers two practices Sunday. That doesn’t mean the media thinks the same way. On just the second day of training camp, Gasol, who is in the final year of his contract with L.A. set to pay him $19.3 million this season, was asked about the possibility of staying on with the Lakers after 2013-14. “If the team is interested, they will approach me and at some point there will be some kind of meeting,” Gasol said. “But I’m not sure when or how. I think it’s going to depend on how I perform during the season. The better I perform, I’m sure the more interested they will be to try to sign me, I guess.” Gasol averaged a career-low 13.7 points last year, his 46.6 field goal percentage was the worst mark of his 12 seasons in the league, and his 8.6 rebounds per game was his lowest average since 2007-08.

From Ben R, Silver Screen & Roll: Ever since Dwight Howard decided to leave the Lakers for Houston, analyzing the Lakers’ subsequent moves has mostly been a bit of a depressing exercise since the most likely outcome for next season is a bout of mediocrity. Most of the time in the NBA, mediocrity isn’t a productive way to spend your time. You aren’t maximizing your draft position to get the best possible player and if you don’t have existing young players on the roster to develop, you’re heading for a few years of maddening play in which you don’t have the pieces to compete and can’t bottom out to get them. The Lakers have compounded this issue by not having a first rounder in 2015, so their future fortunes are incredibly dependent on their 2014 draft pick and how they conduct their business in free agency in 2014 and 2015.

From Phillip Barnett, Lakers Nation: On April 12, Kobe Bryant suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in a game against the Golden State Warriors. The next day, Bryant had surgery to repair the torn ligament, and has been rehabbing ever since. The usual timetable for a return after an Achilles tear is nine-to-12 months, a during the summer there were reports that Bryant was shattering the return time from such a severe injury. In an interview with The National, a website in Dubai, Bryant says that he’s looking to be ready for Opening Night. Addressing his Achilles injury, Bryant said he was getting stronger every day. “Now it’s about cutting the recovery time, I should be OK [for the start of the season],” he said. It’s unclear whether or not Bryant will actually be able to be back at full strength by the start of the season, which is just over a month away. Bryant still isn’t able to jog and put all of his body weight on the injury as he’s still a few weeks away from being able to move away from the anti-gravity treadmill.

From Brett Pollakoff, Pro Basketball Talk: Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak knows Kobe Bryant professionally as well as anyone at this point, considering that he’s been in the team’s front office for every one of Bryant’s 17-year career in Los Angeles. So while Bryant’s will to win is unparalleled in today’s NBA, Kupchak knows that he won’t change his game for anyone — especially potential stars looking to Los Angeles as a potential destination in free agency next summer. Simply put, Bryant is not going to showcase a certain, more appealing style of play in hopes that it may entice free agents to sign up to play by his side. “Kobe is not going to play to lure somebody to Los Angeles,” Kupchak said Wednesday, addressing the press in advance on Saturday’s media day. “He’s going to play to try to win games. If the way he plays helps lure players to Los Angeles, then so be it. But trust me, in January, February and March, that’s not what he’s thinking when there’s a game being played.”

From Dave McMenamin, ESPN LA: When we last left the Los Angeles Lakers, a painful season was mercifully being put to an end at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs. But the past is the past. A new season is right around the corner. Hope springs eternal, right? A lot has changed in Laker Land in the five months between the Spurs series, which ended in a 21-point loss to complete the sweep on April 28, and when training camp opens up Saturday. Most notably, the will-he-or-won’t-he game the team played with Dwight Howard ended with the Lakers stranded on the dance floor as Howard made his Texas two-step to the Houston Rockets. Beyond that, L.A. said goodbye to key contributors Metta World Peace, Antawn Jamison and Earl Clark, and hello to a handful of hopeful replacements in Chris Kaman, Nick Young, Jordan Farmar and Wesley Johnson. With that said, it’s time to count down to training camp. Let’s take a look at the 10 storylines to keep in mind as the Lakers open up the 2013-14 season.

From Eric Pincus, LA Times: The Lakers rarely pick in the first round of the NBA draft. The only player on the roster who was drafted by the Lakers in the first round was Jordan Farmar (26th overall pick in 2006), and he was picked up this summer as a free agent. Technically even Kobe Bryant was acquired in a 1996 trade with the Charlotte Hornets (now New Orleans Pelicans).  The last first-rounder taken by the Lakers who actually joined the team immediately was Javaris Crittenton in 2007. Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak has acquired a number of high-drafted players who have yet to truly make their mark in the league. “A lot of time a general manager or a team won’t pick up the fourth-year or the third-year option, only because they haven’t had enough of a look at the player,” said Kupchak on Wednesday.  “Sometimes those guys are better off with the second team they’re with.

From Ryan Ward, Lakers Nation: At 34 years-old, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers sustained the most severe injury of his NBA career. With a torn Achilles tendon, Kobe was sidelined for the remainder of the last season while the team was attempting to lock up a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Ultimately, the Lakers played their way into the postseason without Kobe in the lineup, but were swept by the San Antonio Spurs and faced a lot of uncertainty heading into the off-season. The major concern was Kobe’s health and whether or not he’d be able to return at some point next season or if he’d be able to continue playing at an elite level. While making an incredible recovery from surgery to repair the torn Achilles, Kobe has been doing his best to prove to all the doubters that he’ll be back to form much earlier than anticipated. One of Kobe’s attempts to prove he was making considerable progress in his recovery was jumping off a 40-foot high dive into a pool.

From Eric Pincus, LA Times: To make the playoffs, the Lakers need to be better than seven teams in the Western Conference. In the first three of 14 entries, the Lakers were ruled better than theNew Orleans Pelicans and Phoenix Suns but not as good as the Oklahoma City Thunder. Are the Lakers better than the San Antonio Spurs? Tony Parker is often be overlooked on the list of top point guards, but he shouldn’t be. The Lakers, like most of the league, always seem to have problems covering Parker. The Spurs were seconds away from winning the NBA title last season and Parker was a major reason why. Last season he averaged 20.3 points a game with 7.6 assists. San Antonio also has Corey Joseph and Patty Mills behind Parker. Steve Nash, at his best with the Phoenix Suns, was almost always stymied by the Spurs in the playoffs. The Lakers have better depth at the point than they did last year with Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar — more than the Spurs can boast.
From Kelly Dwyer, Yahoo Sports: Earlier in the offseason, we fretted over the prospect of Kobe Bryant returning too soon and shouldering too heavy a burden as he recovered from his Achilles tear from last April. Bryant is no stranger to playing through significant pain, few NBA players in history have gutted through more, but a tear like this (especially at an age like Bryant’s) is a significant departure from the broken fingers and fluid-filled knees that Kobe has had to deal with in seasons past. Second to Kobe, only one man knows Bryant’s body better. Lakers trainer Gary Vitti has been a Kobe confidante since his rookie season in 1996-97, and despite some misgivings over Bryant’s social media-related offseason choices, Vitti says Bryant is taking an exacting, intelligent approach to what will be a career-altering rehabilitation.
From J.M. Poulard, Bleacher Report: Steve Nash did not play up to his capabilities in 2012-13 with the Los Angeles Lakers. There are a couple of things he can do to bounce back in Mike D’Antoni’s offense. The biggest obstacle Nash faced in his first season in Los Angeles was a lack of touches. D’Antoni ran the offense through Kobe Bryant and tasked him with most of the playmaking responsibilities. That meant Bryant was responsible for setting up Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. Thus, because Bryant handled the ball most of the time, Nash was relegated to the role of floor spacer. Synergy Sports tells us that 17.8 percent of his field goals came in spot-up situations. That is the highest share of these types of shot attempts Nash has recorded since Synergy Sports began tracking the stat in 2009-10.

From Phillip Barnett, Lakers Nation: During the Lakers 2002 championship campaign, they had to go through the Sacramento Kings in the Western Conference Finals before they were able to finish off their three-peat with a sweep over the New Jersey Nets. That WCF against the Kings would prove to be the Lakers toughest test as the Kings would take the Lakers to an epic seven game series that saw Robert Horry’s most famous shot and Shaquille O’Neal calling the team the “Queens.” Lots has changed since then, the Lakers would go on to win two more titles while the Kings have been a lottery team for seven of the 11 years. The vitriol between the two teams has cooled down tremendously since the series, and even the the players in the series don’t seem to hate the other team quite as much as they did over a decade ago. This hasn’t been anymore evident than in the recent news that O’Neal has become a minority owner of the team,according to USA Today’s Sam Amick.

From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: Mike D’Antoni leaned heavily on Steve Nash last season, when he could. A broken leg and an assortment of other injuries kept Nash down to 50 games last season, but when he did play he averaged 32.5 minutes a game. Up from the season before. With the Lakers moving this season toward a more pure version of what coach Mike D’Antoni wants to run (after having to modify it heavily due to Dwight Howard and the rest of an ill-fitting roster last season) we could see more Nash. But with Nash at age 39, turning 40 during the season, Lakers trainer Gary Vitti suggested maybe a reduction in minutes, as he told Mark Medina of the Daily News.

From Mike Bresnahan, LA Times: Forget all that stuff about Kobe Bryant returning from an Achilles’ tendon injury this season. It’ll happen at some point. The real question involves next season. He might not return at all to the Lakers. Bryant is entering the last nine months of his contract, a season worth $30.45 million before he can become a free agent in July. He has known only one team in his 17-year career and often says he’ll be a Laker for life, but will that be the case? The Lakers haven’t opened contract negotiations with Bryant, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, taking a wait-and-see approach as he recovers from his injury. Bryant, 35, has done incredible things for the franchise, pushing it to five championships and two other NBA Finals appearances in his 17 seasons. His jersey is continually among the league’s top sellers, his first name easily recognizable even with non-sports fans.

From ESPN News Services: Jeanie Buss, the chief of the Los Angeles Lakers’ business operations and fiancee of Hall of Famer Phil Jackson, wrote in an upcoming update to her “Laker Girl” memoir that she felt the hiring of Mike D’Antoni as head coach last year instead of Jackson was “a betrayal.” Buss, in an excerpt published Sunday in the Los Angeles Times, wrote she felt she “got played,” referring to the decision ultimately made by her brother Jim, which she has said took her and Jackson by surprise and had been an unsettling experience. “Why did they have to do that?” Jeanie Buss wrote in the November edition of the book first published in 2010. “Why did Jim pull Phil back into the mix if he wasn’t sincere about it? …”Phil wasn’t looking for the job, and then he wasted 36 hours of his life preparing for it when they were never in a million years going to hire him anyway.”How do you do that to your sister? How do you do that to Phil Jackson?”

From Corey Hansford, Lakers Nation: Everyone in America remembers where they were on November 7, 1991. On that day, Magic Johnson announced to the world that he had contracted the HIV virus and would have to immediately retire from the NBA, ending one of the most illustrious careers in the history of the league. Despite announcing his retirement, Johnson’s name was already on the All-Star ballots that had been sent out to all NBA arenas, leading to Johnson being voted as a starter for the Western Conference despite never stepping on the court. Many people were against Johnson playing, most notably Utah Jazz forward Karl Malone and even Johnson’s former Laker teammates Byron Scott and A.C. Green, as they were unsure whether or not they could contract the HIV virus if Johnson were to suffer an open wound while playing.

From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: This is why there is drug testing in the NBA. Not that Metta World Peace is on drugs or needs them to say something outrageous. Never has and never will. He was certainly excessively boastful of what the Lakers could and would do when he was a member of that team. This summer the Lakers decided to amnesty him but that doesn’t mean he’s given up the over-the-top Lakers predictions — he made another one to ESPNNewYork.com. “I think the Lakers are going to go to the NBA Finals,” World Peace said during a signing for his children’s book “Metta’s Bedtime Stories” in downtown Manhattan on Wednesday.”

From Eric Pincus, LA Times: Veteran point guard Steve Blake says he believes that the Lakers will exceed expectations this season. “I’m still a little bit surprised about how negative people are on us right now,” Blake told Mike Trudell of Lakers.com on Tuesday. “If you speak to most of the players, we’re all pretty optimistic,” Blake said. “I think the fact that people don’t believe in us this year might give us an advantage somehow.” Blake has joined nearly the entire roster in informal workouts at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo. Two still out are Kobe Bryant, recovering from an Achilles injury, and Pau Gasol who is in Europe (primarily Spain) while rehabbing his knees. It’s unclear if either will be ready by opening night on Oct. 29.

From Kevin Ding, Bleacher Report: The first words Kobe Bryant ever said to me came with a sideways smile. “I look forward to reading your criticisms.”Bryant was 20, nearing the end of his third NBA season with stardom and backlash already his reality show. He stood, spoke and soon laughed in front of his locker at The Forum, the Lakers’ old home, in 1999. Already cocksure then, still cocksure now. Today he’s 35, and we’ve been together every step of that way…with an awful lot transpiring in what has to be considered one of the most interesting lives you’ll ever see play out. And in all honesty, there are not many people in my life I understand better than him.

From Dave McMenamin, ESPN LA: Pretty much any fan of the Los Angeles Lakers will tell you that the last three seasons haven’t been very fun, with the 2012-13 season falling much closer to painful than joyful on the experience scale. “We were stacked and it was an epic failure,” said Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist and Lakers super fan, Flea, in a recent podcast with LandOLakers.com. “For me, it was the most disappointing Lakers season of all time and not even close to any other season.” From the embarrassing ending to Phil Jackson’s final campaign, to the uninspiring Mike Brown era (L.A. topped 100 points just 24 times in the 71 regular-season games he coached), to the utter disaster of last season, the return on investment of time, money and emotion spent by Lakers fans has not resulted in any sort of payoff. I know what that life’s all about, having grown up as a Philadelphia sports fan. Losing and frustration and disappointment come with the territory.

From Eric Pincus, LA Times: The Lakers signed free-agent forward Marcus Landry to a contract Monday. Landry was a standout on the Lakers’ summer league squad in Las Vegas, averaging 15.2 points and 4.2 rebounds a game. While a deal wasn’t signed until Monday, Landry and the Lakers had reached a tentative, unbinding agreement on a “make-good” contract in late July.  The 27-year old, 6-foot-7 forward tweeted his intentions almost two months ago. Landry will make $788,873 for the season, if he makes the team.The Lakers now have 15 players on the roster, the maximum allowed for the regular season. The team is expected to bring 16 to 20 players to training camp, including second-round draft pick Ryan Kelly (48th overall). Landry previously played for Coach Mike D’Antoni in New York for the Knicks during the 2009-10 season.

From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: Kobe Bryant’s psychology is such that when his teammates struggle on offense he quickly fills that void — he believes he is a better offensive option even if the defense is focused on him than a passive or cold teammate. That has led to some bad choices and miraculous shots over the years. Now at age 35 coming off an Achilles injury, can Kobe change is ways? It’s not me asking that question (well, not alone anyway), it is Laker legend, broadcaster and Hall of Famer James Worthy. He spoke with Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. “One of the biggest challenges for Kobe this year is, can he step back?” Worthy said. “He’s been in the league for 17 years, has a lot of miles on the body and has had a lot of injuries. Can he find a game that will allow other guys to flourish?”

From Matt More, CBS Sports: The big question for the Lakers, and one of the biggest questions for next season period, is when Kobe Bryant will return. Bryant has been aggressively rehabbing his torn achilles after surgery last spring in typical Bryant fashion. Kobe has said in recent days that the Achilles tendon feels “really, really good,” but also that he’s not sure if he’ll be ready for the season opener. Now the LA Times reports that while Lakers doctors say he’s “progressing,” the plan is for Bryant to miss all of the preseason, so his absolute earliest return would be opening night, October 29th vs. the Clippers.Kobe Bryant continues to move forward in his rehabilitation from a torn Achilles’ tendon, though the Lakers are unwilling to put an updated timetable on his exact return. “He’s progressing well and has met all the targets and milestones of his rehab, and we expect him to make a full recovery,” Lakers spokesman John Black told The Times on Monday. “One of the key issues is to make sure he builds up strength and endurance not only in his Achilles but also in his legs, knees, back and core.”