Are the Los Angeles Lakers Ready for Post-Kobe Bryant Era?

Kobe Bryant’s rehabilitation from Achilles surgery continues on, and the Los Angeles Lakers’ future continues to be viewed through that exact same prism.

The storyline no longer seems to be whether the team will be better or worse than they were last season—and remember, that season was an unmitigated train wreck, filled with injuries, a coaching change, the death of revered owner Dr. Jerry Buss and a Dwight Howard experiment gone horribly wrong.

No, the storyline now seems to have morphed: The team isn’t ready for a future that will be shaped by a complicated amalgamation of events, some evident and some completely unclear.

Let’s start with a few basics. Despite the ever-present panic button, Bryant’s rehab seems to be progressing at a reasonable, if not wholly optimistic, rate. Mike Bresnahan from the L.A. Times reports that despite Bryant’s annoyance at constant timetable questions, he’s pushing hard and running well.

He said his Achilles' tendon felt fine. It was more about getting his left ankle up to speed.

"It's really lack of flexibility and range of motion in the [ankle] joint. It's not anything to do with the tendon necessarily," he said. "Having the ankle locked up so long, it won't move."

Basic fact number two: Lakers management were completely and irrevocably constrained this summer by the league’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA). That is to say, given their present payroll, they were only able to fill out a gutted roster with one mini-midlevel exception of around $3 million (used on backup center Chris Kaman) and veteran minimum salaries which range just north and south of the $1 million mark.

They did stick one other arrow in their quiver this year when they selected stretch 4 Ryan Kelly as the 48th overall pick in the 2013 draft.

For those who complain that the Lakers h...

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