With the new season tipping off Tuesday against the rival Clippers — still weird reading that, huh? — the excitement should be building for Lakers fans, right?
Well, maybe it could, if it wasn’t one bummer after another.
Kobe Bryant won’t be playing in the season opener, Coach Mike D’Antoni finally announced this weekend. If that wasn’t bad enough, Phil Jackson said he expects there’s no way he’s returning to the Lakers — as coach, advisor or anything.
Bryant’s still rehabbing his Achilles injury, and with no Dwight Howard around, fans are extra anxious for his return. But when asked if Kobe might thrill everyone with a surprise appearance on opening night, D’Antoni finally said what fans feared all along.
"No," D’Antoni told ESPNLA.com. "My God, I know he’s Superman, but my God. He hasn’t run yet."
No good news on the Phil front, either. Jackson says he’s rooting for the Lakers, the team of fiancee Jeanie Buss, but not looking to work with her brother Jim again.
"At the present time I don’t see how that would work out with the way the organization is set up right now. There would have to be some seismic shift," he told the LA Times.
Jackson said he’s talked to other teams but hasn’t found a fit, and he’s certain about one thing: At 68, he’s done coaching.
"I don’t feel that’s my role anymore to be out there on the court," he said.
Jim Buss let Jackson walk away, but he says there’s no way he’ll let Bryant do that.
"I want to put an end to any speculation that we would allow Kobe to become a free agent," the Lakers’ executive VP told ESPNLA.com on Friday night. "That’s not going to happen. Kobe is a top priority for us. He’s a Laker legend and always will be. I don’t think we’re done winning championships with him yet.
"[Lakers general manager] Mitch Kupchak and [Bryant’s agent] Rob Pelinka have been talking, but with him being hurt, it has slowed the process some. I don’t know when it’ll get done, but I have faith in Rob and Mitch to work things out."
Bryant, 35, is attempting to return from a ruptured Achilles tendon he suffered April 12. The timeframe was six to nine months. He’s still ahead of schedule, D’Antoni says, but Bryant has had to scale back his workouts and says he can’t tough through this injury.
"It’s a little different in the sense that, injuries to your lower extremities can always lead to something else," Bryant said. "So, it’s not about being 100 percent necessarily, but it’s about making sure that you’re running with the proper gait and you’re not putting stress on other areas that can then cause problems down the road."
Bryant has played all of his 17 seasons with the Lakers, averaging 25 or more points in 12 of those seasons. Even though he averaged 27.3 points last season, ESPN ranked him the 25th best player in the NBA behind names like Joakim Noah and John Wall. Well, naturally, that didn’t go over too well with the Mamba.