Just because fans may have to wait longer than expected to see the Los Angeles Lakers play thanks to the current lockout, doesn’t mean any of the questions surrounding the team are going to go away.
Whether it’s the hiring of Mike Brown or being swept out of the playoffs, there is more mystery in Los Angeles right now than there has been in years.
However, mystery or no mystery, the Lakers go as Kobe Bryant goes. There is no question Kobe has more quality years behind him than he does in front of him.
But has he reached the point in his career where we will begin to see a drastic decline in his production and health? Or, does the Black Mamba still have a couple of seasons left of being considered one of the game’s elite?
Here is what fans and the organization can realistically expect out of Kobe Bryant next season.
As all basketball fans know, Kobe Bryant is one of the fiercest competitors in the game.
After the Los Angeles Lakers’ ugly exit from the playoffs, Kobe and the rest of the team will likely have a big chip on their shoulder next season.
With something to prove, look for Kobe’s drive and determination to be at its peak.
While there is no doubting Kobe Bryant's career is entering its twilight, I think he has a couple more quality seasons under his belt. Therefore, don’t expect Kobe’s statistics to deviate very much from last season’s.
Remember, Kobe has not had this much extra rest since the 2007 offseason (could be a lot of extra rest, depending on the labor negotiations). Throw in the aforementioned chip on his shoulder, and Kobe’s statistics will likely be very similar to last season’s.
Projected Statistics: 24 points, 33 minutes, five rebounds and four assists.
Kobe Bryant was named to his ninth career NBA All-Defensive First Team last season.
Mike Brown is best known for his defensive philosophies. In addition, Kobe knows better than anyone that defense is the key to winning championships.
So, expect Kobe to put playing good defense at the front of the team's to do list.
Thanks to an aging body and injuries sustained the last few seasons, Kobe may not be able to go full speed at the defensive end like he used to. But I would be surprised if he wasn’t named to one of the all-defensive teams, based on reputation alone.
For the first time in awhile, there are question marks surrounding the future success of the Los Angeles Lakers.
A combination of a new head coach and the pressure of getting back to the NBA Finals should keep things interesting in Hollywood next season.
How Kobe Bryant deals with all of the added pressure will go along way with how the other team members feed off the situation. If the going gets tough this season, I expect Kobe to handle all troubles with a cool, calm demeanor.
If not, the team could be in for a long season.
It was reported last week, Kobe Bryant went to Germany for an experimental procedure in hopes of healing his injured right knee.
Last season, Kobe’s injured right knee was a popular topic of discussion. It was reported last January, Kobe didn’t start practicing with the rest of the team until after Christmas, in an effort to preserve the health of his right knee.
As I mentioned above, the extra rest should only help Kobe’s health going forward. On the other hand, Kobe has a lot of miles on his body, so fans may have to get used to a banged up Kobe.
Unless an unexpected injury rears its head, Kobe’s health should be ok for another year or two, before the natural deterioration really starts kicking in.