The Los Angeles Lakers took to the hard court for their first bout of regular-season action since finishing with a franchise-worst record in 2013-14. While we did receive a glimpse of the team's on-court product for this year, the team isn't at full strength just yet.
Kobe Bryant is still getting back into the swing of things after an injury-plagued season, Nick Young is still recovering from a thumb injury, and the team is dealing with the season-long absence of Steve Nash. It could be a little while yet until the Lakers really get into a groove.
What kind of impact will the aforementioned trio of players have on the team's fortunes this season? Here's a look at some interesting tidbits of information that recently surfaced around the Web.
Duncan over Kobe?
Bryant was drafted in the first round of the 1996 NBA draft, and Tim Duncan was selected No. 1 a year later. Both have produced impeccable careers and will go down as two of the greatest of all time. However, there has been some recent debate regarding which player has been more valuable for his team.
According to Sam Amico of Fox Sports, one general manager is definitely leaning toward Duncan:
It's almost impossible to compare the values of these players to their respective teams. After all, Duncan's role in San Antonio is far different that Bryant's in Los Angeles. Both are asked to do far different things on both ends of the court, so statistical comparisons make little sense.
This year, though, it's been easy to make a case for Bryant. He's been the team's leader for a number of years, but he's taking on a mentor role for some of the younger players in 2014. General manager Mitch Kupchak had some glowing praise for the guard's leadership ability during an interview with Time Warner Cable SportsNet (via LakersNation.com).
Said Kupchak: "I think [Bryant] can make the All-Star team. ... I think he'll have the ability to score when he wants to score. I think he'll be a great leader. His voice will be heard. ... He won't be like he was fifteen years ago...that wiry, springy, try to dunk the ball every time...but you won't notice it."
While an argument over whether Duncan or Bryant is more valuable could make for some interesting banter, we also may as well try to figure out if the chicken did actually come before the egg—the end result of the two debates will be the same.
Nick Young's Recovery
Young may be one of the most integral components for the Lakers' success this season. He broke out last season, averaging 17.9 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists despite coming off the bench for most of the year. He's expected to have an increased role this season; however, things didn't get off to a great start.
During practice, Young injured his thumb when guarding Bryant and was forced to wear a cast on his shooting hand while it healed. That was certainly bad news for Lakers faithful, but Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times tweeted some very good news:
We now know the timetable for Young's return. Luckily, the NBA season is a lengthy one, and Young missing one month is not a death sentence for this team. As for getting the cast off, Young took care of divulging that news himself:
The cast is off, his hand will get stronger, and he'll be back in action before we know it.
Steve Nash's Salary
Unfortunately, we all know about Nash's season-ending—and likely career-ending—issues with his back. The guard won't be in action at all this year, and according to a tweet from the Los Angeles Times, the team is attempting to procure a disabled player exception:
What does this mean? Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times explains in his editorial:
If [the exception was] granted by the NBA, the Lakers would gain an exception for half of Nash's $9.7-million salary.
The exception would enabled the team to add a single player by March 10, either by signing a free agent ($4.85-million maximum), via trade ($4.95-million maximum incoming salary) or waiver claim ($4.85-million maximum salary).
While the Lakers do have Jeremy Lin to fill Nash's shoes, and rookie Jordan Clarkson is in the fold, the team is still very thin in the backcourt. With this exception, the team would be able to go after a player in an effort to add some much-needed depth.
Considering the rash of injuries Los Angeles has recently endured, depth is at an all-time premium.