Kobe Bryant Predicts 'the Lakers Are Going to Surprise a Lot of People'

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistOctober 18, 2018

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James reacts from the bench during the second half of an NBA preseason basketball game against the Sacramento Kings in Los Angeles, Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018. The Lakers won 128-123. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers are currently in the midst of a five-year playoff drought, but with LeBron James now on board, Kobe Bryant believes this year's squad can make some noise.

Bryant made it clear to The Undefeated's Jerry Bembry that the Purple and Gold have put together an intriguing roster:

"The Lakers are going to surprise a lot of people. Rob [Pelinka, the Lakers’ general manager], has smartly built a team of physical players. Big, versatile, fast, physical players. He understands that if you want to challenge Golden State, you can’t challenge them with shooting. That’s what they do.

"You’ve got to beat them somewhere else. You have to beat them with size. Chippiness. Feistiness. Strength and speed. And he has a team that has that. He has a mixture of vets that are still in their primes and young kids that are hungry and open-minded and willing to learn. A team that can compete and challenge. That is a dangerous mix."

Los Angeles has added a number of young and talented players like Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart and Lonzo Ball through the draft in recent years. After James signed with the team this summer, the Lakers prioritized signing experienced veterans such as Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee and Michael Beasley.

As long as James stays healthy, many believe the Lakers can be among the top teams in the Western Conference. However, there are questions as to what the team's ceiling can be.

The Black Mamba doesn't have any doubts, though, that the storied franchise will once again be playing meaningful basketball come April.

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"Oh, God, yes. C’mon," Bryant said when asked by The Undefeated if the Lakers will be a playoff team in 2018-19. "C'mon."

Bryant, of course, helped the Lakers win five championships during his 20-year career and made it to the NBA Finals two other times. The last time the franchise made a postseason appearance, No. 24 was still playing.

The Black Mamba hung up his sneakers at the end of the 2015-16 season, and the Lakers have won a total of 61 games over the past two seasons in the post-Bryant era. Although those performances are not up to the franchise's lofty standards, the young players have shown improvements with each passing season.

Expectations for the upcoming season have skyrocketed since James—a four-time NBA MVP who has made it to eight straight NBA Finals—entered the picture. Bryant isn't predicting banner No. 17 coming to the Staples Center next summer, but he believes a playoff appearance this season is definite.