The vibe during Lakers training camp has stayed intensely positive and laid back, serving as stark contrast to the tension two years ago stemmed from the nixed Chris Paul deal and last season with hype circulating around the Steve Nash and Dwight Howard acquisitions.
But will those good vibes fade away as soon as the regular season starts? NBATV’s Chris Webber and Greg Anthony sure believe so, expressing skepticism that the Lakers will even make the playoffs.
“The real question is whether they can make the postseason right now given the fact they don’t defend very well,” Webber said Tuesday during a conference call to NBATV’s coverage of the 2013-14 season. “They shouldn’t have made the playoffs last year if Kobe didn’t do super, horrific, Alien, Mars type play. I remember those games he did. Last year, I say they didn’t make the playoffs even though they did because Kobe is that great.”
Questions persist on whether Bryant could replicate last season’s output when he averaged 27.3 points on 46.3 percent shooting, six assists and 5.6 rebounds. He’s rehabbed his left Achilles tendon for the last six months, and the Lakers haven’t offered a timetable when he will return. Bryant also visited Germany last week to have a procedure on his right knee.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt Kobe Bryant will ascertain a certain level of greatness,” Anthony said. “It’s not about what Kobe does. It’s about what the front office, the coach and the rest of the roster does.”
Anthony then ticked off various concerns.
“They were horrible for the most part defensively a year ago and they lost the anchor in that defense in Dwight Howard,” Anthony said. “What are you going to get from Steve Nash? He’s a Hall of Famer. But at this stage in his career, how much does he have and at what level and how many minutes can he log? The real question is whether they can make the postseason right now given the fact they don’t defend very well.”
Webber also has some concerns about Bryant, and it has nothing to do with how he will handle his injury.
“Is the ball going to stop with Kobe or are they going to pass the ball, play any defense and get back on the break?” Webber said. “I think Kobe’s going to be fine, but I wonder about all the things that he hopes his team gets better in … Kobe is Kobe. He’s going to work as hard as he can and he’s going to come out and look good on the court.”
Anthony also sounded doubtful of the Lakers’ playoff chances for other reasons.
Anthony believes the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant will improve. He touted the Golden State Warriors, New Orleans Pelicans and even the Phoenix Suns as teams potentially better than the Lakers.
“The Lakers, their best players have played their best basketball. Now the question is what do they have left and at what level can they sustain it. In pro sports, the league isn’t going to sit around and wait for you.”
Despite all the skepticism that Webber shares, he stayed convinced Bryant will relentlessly aim to show otherwise.
“I like when he proves us wrong when we say he can’t set the fire on fire and he does it,” Webber said. “I would honestly say no [about the team's playoff chances]. I’ve said no before and Kobe has done something fantastic. Either way, it’ll be fun to watch. With Kobe, whenever you have him, you always have more than a chance.”
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