The summer months have been anything but boring for the Los Angeles Lakers and their legions of fans.
On paper, this club is currently stuck in the NBA’s version of purgatory—stuck between wiping the slate, bottoming out and rebuilding, and actually contending for a championship and making more than a token playoff appearance.
Let’s take a look at the Lakers’ most recent plans to escape this situation, update you on Kobe Bryant’s recovery from his infamous Achilles injury, highlight some training camp invites and more.
Buss Says Bryant Back in Preseason
Jim Buss’ tenure as the vice president of the Lakers has been tumultuous at best, and he may be in hot water yet again.
Last week, the executive told NBATV (via ESPN’s Arash Markazi) that the Black Mamba is ahead of schedule and he expects his star player to participate in at least one of squad’s slate of preseason contests.
Speaking on the recovery, Buss had some positive praise and insight into the process:
He's real sharp in taking care of himself and he's not going to rush anything just to get back and prove a point. He's going to come back when he's right. He's a machine. He's inhuman. I see him coming back at the beginning of this season. I can't believe how much he's progressed so far.
While Buss didn’t reveal any state secrets or say anything over the top, Bryant may not appreciate his comments.
The two have clashed in the past—Buss hired former coach Mike Brown without consulting the veteran shooting guard—and these latest comments could cause more turmoil within the organization.
Kobe has yet to respond to Buss’ bet that he would be back and play in the preseason.
Douglas-Roberts, Others Hoping to Make Team
Chris Douglas-Roberts averaged 9.8 points per game for the New Jersey Nets in 2009-10 but has only appeared in six NBA games since the end of the 2010-11 season.
The former Memphis Tigers star is hoping to catch on with the Lakers for the coming campaign and is participating in the Las Vegas summer league with the club and hopes to be at training camp in October.
Hoopsworld’s Alex Kennedy caught up to the 26-year-old, who spoke on his chances to make the cut: “I think they’re interested. They were interested last year, but things happen. It was a numbers game, which I fully understand. But I definitely think this is good a fit and it’s why I’m back this summer."
CDR is referring to his attempt to make L.A.’s roster last year, when he was one of the final cuts after an up-and-down training camp.
He’ll have plenty of competition, as ESPN New York’s Ian Begley noted that Shawne Williams, another former Net and NBA journeyman, will be in Tinseltown looking for a job.
Williams had his best season under head coach Mike D’Antoni back in 2010-11, as the 6’9” swingman averaged 7.1 points and shot 42.6 percent from the field and 40.1 percent from three-point land in 64 appearances with the New York Knicks.
Regardless of how well Douglas-Roberts, Williams or any of the other training camp participants fare, don’t expect any to be offered a long-term contract.
Summer 2014 or Bust
The Lakers are in a tough place right now, but there is an opportunity for his prestigious club to re-establish itself as one of the top teams in basketball.
In less than one year, L.A. could be in position nab a top pick in the loaded 2014 draft and sign a number of superstar free agents that could be on the open market next summer.
Should the Lakers bottom out this year—completely possible with the lack of depth, plus age and injury concerns with the actual good players—they could have some lottery luck and secure a bona fide star like Andrew Wiggins next June.
Which free agent will L.A. land next summer?
Then there is the possibility that LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and others are enticed by the bright lights and history of this franchise and decide to take their talents to Hollywood—if they exercise their early termination options.
According to Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst of ESPN, the Lakers front office has its sights set on LBJ and ‘Melo in 2014, but there’s also the chance they could nab other stars like Luol Deng, Danny Granger and Dirk Nowitzki.
While it’s far-fetched at best, the Miami Heat were able to bring in a trio of stars in 2010 and win back-to-back titles over the last two seasons.
Based on their past luck and history, you can never count the Lakers out as major players in the free-agent game.