For the first time in a long time, the Los Angeles Lakers have little to play for in this 2013-14 season. Tuesday's 104-92 home loss to the Indiana Pacers dropped Los Angeles to last place in the Pacific Division. According to NBA Legion, this is the first time the Lakers have been in last place this late in the season since 1974.
With a playoff berth reduced to but a faded dream, the Lakers faithful can at least look forward to the return of legendary shooting guard Kobe Bryant, one of the most beloved players ever to don the purple and gold.
But the news of Bryant's rehab from injury has only filled Lakers fans with more dread. Bryant spoke on the condition of his injured knee with Los Angeles Times reporter Melissa Rohlin, and the 35-year-old Bryant did not paint a rosy picture. Bryant believes that the swelling in his knee will cause him to miss at least three weeks.
Bryant got a late start to his 2013-14 season, playing his first game on Dec. 8 after rehabbing an Achilles injury suffered last spring. At the time, the Lakers were still in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race.
Since that time, however, nothing has gone right...for Kobe or the Lakers. Bryant played in only six games before fracturing his lateral tibial plateau on Dec. 17. The Lakers survived Bryant's first absence but fell apart after losing Bryant, Steve Nash, Jordan Farmar and Steve Blake. Since Bryant went down for the second time, the Lakers are just 4-17.
With Bryant not responding well to rehab, even Lakers legend Magic Johnson has suggested openly that Bryant take the rest of the year off, telling the Times staff, per Mike James, "He’s been hurt twice, give him the whole year to get healthy.”
Kobe Bryant may not be able to admit defeat yet, but as the weeks pass, he might be getting closer to a day of reckoning. A return in 2014 just might not be in his best interest.