From Elizabeth Benson, Lakers Nation: While the Lakers are preparing for two exhibition games in China this week, the major focus remains on Kobe Bryant and his Achilles recovery. After all, the Lakers’ performance this season will most likely be determined by when Kobe returns and how effective he will be after suffering the most serious injury of his career. Last week, Kobe revealed that he had been given the green light to increase his workouts and conditioning process, and he also claimed that he needed three weeks of intensive conditioning to get back into game shape. In Beijing, Kevin Ding talked to Kobe about his progress with his Achilles. Bryant shared: “I haven’t had any pain or any soreness whatsoever. It’s kind of a flexibility thing, and getting the range of motion back—feel like you can bend without having to lift the heel up. After months of the tendon being compressed, now you have to work to stretch it out a little bit.”
From Brett Pollakoff, Pro Basketball Talk: Last season: It was supposed to be yet another year spent contending for a championship for a storied Lakers franchise that already has 16 of them. L.A. loaded up with free agent talent in Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, and was on paper the team most believed would stand in the way of a second straight Miami Heat title. Instead, it was a season full of drama and disaster. The Lakers were decimated by injuries to nearly anyone that mattered, Howard struggled to embrace head coach Mike D’Antoni’s system and playing alongside Kobe Bryant, and the team snuck into the playoffs only to be swept in the first round by the Spurs. If all of that wasn’t bad enough, Bryant went down with a torn Achilles injury near the end of last season that will have a lingering effect on the team entering this one.
From ESPN.com: With an injured Kobe Bryant on the bench, the Los Angeles Lakers will be looking at different player combinations when they play the Golden State Warriors. “We have guys competing for jobs,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said at practice Monday. “They’re trying to earn jobs. So it’s a hard time for these players but they’re doing well.” Although he made the trip to China, Bryant has not yet returned to game action as he continues to recover from a torn Achilles tendon and ailing right knee. The China trip is part of the NBA’s Global Games, an effort to promote the league’s global brand. The league played its first international game when Washington visited Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel in 1978. By the end of this season, the NBA will have played nearly 150 of them, including 18 during the regular season. Pau Gasol said the Lakers have enough on offense to make up for Bryant’s absence.
From Drew Garrison, Silver Screen & Roll: We’re here because we love the Los Angeles Lakers — well, most of us — and we’ve been accustomed to winning championships being the source of joy. The reason the purple and gold play professional basketball is simple — to be the best in the league and add to that majestic championship tally. Hate to break it to you, but this current Lakers squad isn’t likely to add to the banners hanging in Staples Center. And that’s fine. It’s hard to appreciate the little things when the big picture is blocking the view. Last season was a reminder that not all big productions turn into box office hits. It happens. What we’re left with are the props, gag reels and a few actors who were left behind in Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol. The rest are the extras who are sticking around to earn their pay check and become the first group of Lakers to wear “Hollywood Nights” jerseys. And that’s fine too.