Mike Trudell of the Lakers reports Bryant has "scaled back" his recovery after his Achilles tightened up a bit. The star guard is currently unable to sprint, though he has been able to shoot and run:
Bryant knows the season is long and understands the team needs him to stay healthy in order to compete for a championship, as noted by Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News:
As such, he's going to take it easy right now and make sure he doesn't come back from his injury too soon.
Just as important as the team's health, however, is the quality of depth behind the starters. Depth was a huge issue for the Lakers last season, as the team's rash of injuries exposed a weak roster.
No doubt, Bryant will inject much-needed life into Los Angeles' offense when he returns, but his present absence isn't a bad thing for the Lakers. Rather, Bryant's continued absence will be beneficial to the team's long-term success in 2013.
While he's been out rehabbing his injured tendon, Xavier Henry has emerged as a viable scoring option for the Lakers. The fourth-year shooting guard is a deadly shooter with enough length to sub as a small forward when the team goes to a small lineup.
Combined with Jodie Meeks, who emerged last year as a reliable bench player, the Lakers now have two capable wing subs to spell Nick Young and Bryant, when he's healthy.
In the meantime, Bryant will continue to act as another coach on the sideline and in the huddle, doling out his basketball wisdom to the players he'll need at the top of their games when the playoff chase heats up later this season.
The Lakers are better with Bryant than without him, but right now his absence is forcing growth from players that would never have had the opportunity to flourish if he was healthy. Once the team comes together with Bryant in the starting lineup, their early-season experience will come back to pay dividends.
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