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Lakers News: Latest on Kobe Bryant's Eventual Return, Injuries and More from LA

Alex KayCorrespondent INovember 29, 2013

Oct 30, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant (24) behind the bench during the third quarter against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. The Golden State Warriors defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 125-94. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers are hovering around .500, a surprisingly competitive mark for a team expected to struggle without its biggest star—Kobe Bryant—in the lineup.

The Black Mamba is still inching closer to a return from a devastating Achilles tear that sidelined him at the tail end of the 2012-13 campaign. The squad’s playoff hopes and dreams depend on the veteran guard, but—so far—it seems to be staying afloat in his absence.

Let’s check in on Bryant’s recovery and the status of some other injured L.A. players in Friday’s Lakers roundup.

Kobe Still Weeks Away

Bryant returned to practice almost two weeks ago, but still has plenty of gym time left to put in before he will feel comfortable going full speed in an NBA game.

According to ESPN Los Angeles’ Dave McMenamin, the 17-year veteran said he is “probably weeks” away from his 2013-14 debut.

Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News noted that Bryant wants to test his explosiveness and needs a few more practices under his belt to do exactly that.

Speculation on when Bryant will actually return will likely continue until the Mamba finally laces up his sneakers and checks into a game for the Lakers.

However, it has only been a shade over seven months since Bryant initially suffered the injury, putting him towards the early end of the six-to-nine month timetable he was originally given.

As long as Kobe continues to practice without suffering setbacks, the much-anticipated debut should happen sooner than later.

After receiving criticism for signing a two-year, $48.5 million extension, you can tell the Mamba is ready to get back on the hardwood to prove his doubters wrong.

Nick Young’s Finger Sprain

The Lakers are utilizing Nick Young as an adequate replacement at shooting guard during Bryant’s absence, but the 28-year-old recently suffered a finger injury that could hinder his production.

According to McMenamin, Young sprained the ring finger on his left hand during a win over the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night.

Bill Oram of the Orange County Register noted that Young would have to wear a splint due to the sprained PIP joint if he were to play on Friday night against the Detroit Pistons.

His status for the contest is not currently known, but should be announced ahead of the 7:30 p.m. ET tip.

Fortunately, the seventh-year man out of USC is a right-handed shooter and it shouldn’t have too severe an impact on his game. Young has been instrumental off the bench, providing instant offense and energizing the lineup when he comes into the game.

Nov 27, 2013; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Los Angeles Lakers small forward Nick Young (0) dribbles against the Brooklyn Nets during the first half at Barclays Center. The Lakers won 99-94. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 16 overall pick in the 2007 draft has averaged 14.1 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 0.9 steals during his 16 games in Los Angeles, all career highs. He’s shooting a solid 44.9 percent from the field and 37.7 percent from deep, both marks over his career averages.

Gasol Pessimistic About 2014 Offseason

Nov 8, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA;  Los Angeles Lakers center Pau Gasol (16) against the New Orleans Pelicans during the first half of a game at New Orleans Arena. The Pelicans defeated the Lakers 96-85. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

Pau Gasol is playing out the last year of his contract—paying him over $19 million this season—and uncertain about his and the team's future.

According to Antonio Gil of Basket4us (translation via Google), the 13-year veteran noted that there isn’t much “cake” to go around next summer, as the Lakers have just committed big money to Bryant and plan to target a marquee free agent worth a max-dollar contract.

"You have to share the cake and there is very little now."

The veteran power forward has been with the Lakers for just over half his career, winning two championships since being traded from the Memphis Grizzlies in 2008. He’s averaging 14.9 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.3 blocks per game this year and is a large reason why L.A. has remained competitive during Kobe’s absence.

However, the 33-year-old Spaniard looks to be on his way out or in line for a major pay cut this coming summer.

There is even the potential for Gasol to be traded at the upcoming deadline, although the Lakers are unlikely to do that if they are in the running.

It will be very interesting to see what happens to Gasol in the coming months.

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