The Lakers aren’t openly saying what’s happening in the 2013-14 season, even if everyone around them knows it.
So Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will say it for them.
“I think it’s a rebuilding year,” Abdul-Jabbar said.
The NBA’s all-time leading scorer and owner of five league titles during the Lakers’ Showtime Era made those comments in an appearance on ESPN to promote his new book, “Sasquatch in the Paint.” But Abdul-Jabbar had plenty on his mind beyond sharing his love for writing and literature, including Dwight Howard’s departure to the Houston Rockets via free agency and Kobe Bryant’s ongoing rehab with his left Achilles tendon.
“Dwight is an extraordinary athlete and he has incredible athletic ability,” Abdul-Jabbar said on ESPN’s First Take. “But basketball is the game where the important muscle on the court is the one between your ears. Dwight’s basketball IQ is not up to speed for him to be a dominant player. He has problems on both ends of the court and doesn’t have a go-to-move.”
Abdul-Jabbar also noted how his time as a Lakers special assistant coach from 2005 to 2009 involved preparing Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol to match up with Howard in the 2009 NBA Finals. Abdul-Jabbar described it as an “easy job” considering Howard was held to 15.4 points as the Lakers won in five games. Abdul-Jabbar was mostly supportive of Howard during his lone season with the Lakers. But months before Howard’s departure, Abdul-Jabbar said Howard “needed a change in attitude.”
As for Bryant, Abdul-Jabbar’s concerns involve how the Lakers star will look once he fully rehabs his Achilles tendon. Will Bryant remain the same dominant player?
“I don’t know. That’s the toughest injury to recover from,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “If he comes back, he might not be the same Kobe. I’m hoping he’s able to recover 100%, but that’s very difficult with that type of injury. If you ask me who can do it, Kobe would be the guy I would name. He’s a gritty guy, determined and has a great work ethic. So it’s not going to be something where he doesn’t work at it, but it’s a very tough thing. It might be a thing where he never gets to come back to the level where he was with his MVP and Hall of Fame career.”
“I’m sure he can do that, but he’s not going to be happy. He may have to find different ways to help the team. That’s going to be a tough transition for him because he had so much talent and so much energy. Coming back from an injury like that is really hard.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org