Kobe Bryant's Knee, Andrew Bynum's Status Add Drama For the LA Lakers

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IOctober 5, 2010

ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 09:  (L-R) Andrew Bynum #17, Kobe Bryant #24 and Trevor Ariza #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers walk back to the bench in the second quarter against the Orlando Magic in Game Three of the 2009 NBA Finals on June 9, 2009 at Amway Arena in Orlando, Florida.  NOTE TO USER:  User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

For those who didn't know, the Los Angeles Lakers opened their preseason schedule with a loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, and Kobe Bryant did make his first appearance since recent knee surgery.

Bryant only played about six minutes and scored zero points on 0-3 shooting from the floor, but what was more revealing was Bryant's self-prognosis on his knee after the game.

Bryant reportedly said his knee was about 60 percent at this time which is not exactly promising news with the regular season only three weeks away.

The Lakers open the regular season Oct. 26, against the Houston Rockets and it's doubtful Bryant will be 100 percent by then, and it's a guarantee that Andrew Bynum won't be.

Bynum was also obviously absent from yesterday's loss to Minnesota, but unlike Bryant, he will not be available until December at the earliest, after his own knee surgery.

Most would agree that starting a quest for a three-peat with a gimpy Bryant and an injured Bynum is not an ideal situation for the Lakers.

The 2010-11 season will have enough storylines for the Lakers as it is, considering this may be Phil Jackson's final season, and Los Angeles is seeking their third three-peat in the past decade.

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But this injury news is not the type of drama the Lakers need.

The Western Conference should be even tougher next season, and there are plenty of teams such as Dallas, Portland, and Oklahoma City who will be more than willing to replace the Lakers should they falter.

Bynum's injury will be easier for the Lakers to absorb since they are strong in the paint regardless with Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, but that logic only applies with a healthy Bryant.

What other perimeter option do the Lakers have if Bryant is ineffective?

Bryant's knee has been a large elephant in the Lakers' locker room, because no one was sure how he would respond after arthroscopic surgery.

Age and the wear of 14 seasons definitely play a part in a slower recovery time, but could this issue develop into a nagging problem that bothers Bryant all season long?

Most observers would have figured that Bryant's broken finger would be the bigger issue going into next season, but after the recent news about his knee, I'm not so sure.

Bryant can adapt his shooting style as far as his finger goes, but it's impossible to be consistent on a gimpy knee.

Bynum's annual tradition of missing time for the Lakers comes a little earlier this season. One can only hope that once he comes back, he can avoid any further damage.

Bynum's play in the postseason was pivotal for the Lakers, and he gives the team an advantage in the front court that few teams in the NBA can match.

The only thing that worries me about Bynum is his recovery time, which was extended after it was learned his injury was worse than expected.

The first estimation placed Bynum back in time for the regular season opener, and that time was adjusted to mid-November, but has now been pushed back to December.

A lot can happen between the start of the regular season and December, and the Lakers have to approach this season with the intention of gaining pivotal home court advantage in the postseason.

The rest of the Lakers didn't seem too bothered by the fact that Bryant's knee was only 60 percent, and their lackluster showing against Minnesota proved it.

Gasol and Ron Artest started and played, but neither did anything to stand out, and the highly anticipated debut of Steve Blake got off to a rather ordinary start.

Odom was the only Laker who actually seemed to realize there was a game taking place, and that's more likely a result of his extended time playing in the FIBA World Championships.

The preseason is not a good indicator of how the Lakers will perform in the regular season, and their tendency to be complacent early is legendary.

But, this year a good start to the season will be imperative, and the only way that will happen is if Bryant is 100 percent healthy and focused on earning his sixth career championship.

I'm sure Bryant will be focused because he understands what this season means to his legacy.

But, with only three weeks left until the regular season opener will Bryant be healthy enough on a knee that he admits is only 60 percent now?

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