Kobe Bryant’s Early Return Wouldn’t Make Los Angeles a Contender

It doesn’t matter when Kobe Bryant returns to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Los Angeles isn’t going to make it into the postseason whether the star guard is playing in all 82 games or no games at all in the upcoming NBA season. The Lakers just don’t have the talent necessary to finish in the top eight in the Western Conference. It’s very simple to understand.

It appears that Lakers vice president Jim Buss is trying to stir up the pot a bit by saying that Bryant, who’s recovering from a torn Achilles tendon suffered in April, could be playing in preseason games. Here’s what Buss said during an interview with NBA TV, via Arash Markazi of ESPN Los Angeles:

Well, we’re in Vegas, and I would bet a lot of money that this guy comes back probably in the preseason. He’s real sharp in taking care of himself and he’s not going to rush anything just to get back and prove a point. He’s going to come back when he’s right. He’s a machine. He’s inhuman. I see him coming back at the beginning of the season. I can’t believe how much he’s progressed so far.

Sure, no one wants to see Bryant on the sidelines when he could be on the court, which is why this is encouraging news. But this changes absolutely nothing about the chances the Lakers have of making the playoffs next season.

Does Buss think that Bryant’s early return makes the team a contender again?

Major surgery probably won’t keep Bryant from scoring at least 25 points per game next season, but that’s not going to be nearly enough to carry the team. He lost arguably his most valuable teammate, Dwight Howard, to free agency and is now surrounded by veterans who won’t be big contributors next season.

Here’s a look at Los Angeles’ projected starting five for next season:

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