Lakers News: Latest Buzz on Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant Heading into New Season

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistOctober 29, 2014

Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Nash runs out onto the court for a preseason NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors, Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014, in Ontario, Calif. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

Although the NBA regular season is finally underway, plenty of questions remain unanswered regarding the 2014-15 campaign. The Los Angeles Lakers aren't immune from this problem.

The Lakers are going to be a lottery team this year; this is all but an accepted fact. At their most generous estimate, they could get 40-45 wins, which won't be enough to make the playoffs in the loaded Western Conference.

Los Angeles could be in a weird position where it's still not very good, but it won't go into full tank mode because of the franchise's past successes and the presence of Kobe Bryant. Throw in head coach Byron Scott's hatred of three-pointers, and it's going to be a fun season in the Staples Center.

You can check out some of the latest updates surrounding the team below.

Lakers Will File Disabled Player Exception for Steve Nash

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After Paul George went down in the summer with his horrific leg injury, the Indiana Pacers filed for and were granted a disabled player exception. According to Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times and Basketball Insiders, the Lakers will do the same with Steve Nash following his season-ending back injury:

Eric Pincus @EricPincus

Spoke w/ Mitch Kupchak - Lakers in process of filing for Disabled Player Exception - doesn't expect it to be granted for a couple of weeks

Pincus added that general manager Mitch Kupchak isn't pursuing the means to get Nash off the team's books altogether:

Eric Pincus @EricPincus

Mitch Kupchak said Lakers not looking to get Nash off their cap via medical retirement - path for team here is Disabled Player Exception

Had the Lakers pushed for a medical retirement, Nash's time in the league wouldn't have necessarily been over.

The Portland Trail Blazers went down that avenue in December 2011 after Brandon Roy's injuries became too much to overcome. He received a medical retirement, and his contract from the 2011-12 season on didn't count against the cap.

Roy attempted a comeback with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2012-13, but he appeared in only five games for the team.

Since Los Angeles is opting for the DPE, some fans wondered what the team could do with the money it receives. Pincus shot down any hopes that it could sign J.J. Barea or Andrew Bynum:

Eric Pincus @EricPincus

Once Lakers get their Nash DPE - they'll have the means to claim a player making up to $4.85 mil in salary - but won't have it for weeks

Eric Pincus @EricPincus

So to answer many on my timeline - no Lakers cannot claim Barea or Bynum off waivers

In all likelihood, nothing the Lakers can do between now and the end of the regular season will make them a playoff contender. Fans have resigned themselves to a few lean years before the team can get either the draft picks or marquee free agent to be competitive again.

Nash's injury was a punch to the gut, but it did nothing to radically alter the team's fortunes for this year.

Kobe Bryant's Minutes to Average 30-40 a Game

One of the more interesting storylines to watch with the Lakers is Scott's handling of Bryant. How much will the team continue revolving around an aging Kobe, and how long until Scott receives the death stare?

Heading into the season-opener, Scott answered one question regarding Bryant's time on the court, revealing that Kobe will play "between 30-40" minutes a night, per Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.

"I can't say between 30-35 because if I go 35-and-a-half, you guys will start saying, 'Hey, you said 35!'" Scott added. "Between 30-40 is a nice margin to have as far as his playing time is concerned."

Bryant's averaged 36.6 minutes over his 18-year career, and before his injury-ravaged 2013-14 season, his minutes were creeping a little above 38 a night.

At 36 years old and coming off of two major injuries, Kobe can't be expected to play 35-plus minutes in every game. There will probably be some games when he is approaching 40, but somewhere between 32 and 35 is a happy medium.

He can still get enough points to jump ahead of Michael Jordan on the all-time list, but he won't be pushed so hard that he's got nothing left beyond 2015.

Dwight Howard Didn't Leave Because of Kobe

With the Houston Rockets in town for the Lakers' season-opener, Dwight Howard was again thrust into the spotlight and asked to speak about his time in Los Angeles. And after Henry Abbott's explosive article in ESPN The Magazine, many wondered if Bryant had any role in Howard signing with the Houston Rockets.

"I didn’t leave LA because I was afraid of Kobe Bryant," Howard said, per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. "I went to a good situation for myself. I can’t change people’s opinions, but I did what I had to do for myself."

Arguing with Howard's rationale is hard. At the time of his free agency, the Rockets were constructed much better in order to become a title contender. Joining a team with James Harden and Chandler Parsons looked more promising than re-signing with a team still relying on aging veterans like Bryant and Pau Gasol.

Scott waded into the issue and brought up the seemingly never-ending critique of Howard—that he lacks the demeanor to be a true franchise star, per Medina.

Lakers fans were upset with Howard when he went to Houston, but his departure arguably helped the team in that it allowed Los Angeles to get younger players like Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson who can help the franchise when Bryant retires.

It's going to be a painful process now, but it will pay massive dividends in the long term.


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