Kobe Bryant’s Return Secondary to Lakers’ Defensive Burden Heading into 2013-14

For a man who's often been looked at as this generation's President of the Los Angeles Lakers, it's only right that Kobe Bryant gave his latest State of the Union address less than a week before his team opens the 2013-14 season—without him, for the first time since Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men dominated the Billboard charts. 

You've probably gotten used to folks inside Lakerland and out discussing Bryant and his potential return date as if it were a matter of national security.

Bryant didn't do much to help matters Wednesday. As noted by InsideSoCal's Mark Medina, the 2008 NBA MVP admitted he recently "scaled back" workouts to allow his recovering Achilles a chance to build up a chance to heal.

“Injuries to the lower extremities can always lead to something else,” Bryant said. “It’s not about waiting until I’m 100 percent necessarily. But it’s about making sure you’re running with the proper gate. We’re not putting stress on other areas that can cause problems down the road.”

While he's putting a good spin on things, the implication is clear: Those who were skeptical about a superhuman recovery were correct. Bryant still isn't cutting hard, he's still not practicing with a ball in his hand, and he's nowhere near ready for basketball activities.

The process—as anyone with a modicum of knowledge about Achilles injuries and their history has said—will take a while. But with every passing day, the murmurs and speculation will get louder.

For the Lakers, this is nothing new. After all, this is the same franchise that's had arguably the most success in league history and endured numerous off-the-court storylines ranging from Magic Johnson's HIV announcement to the blood-feud between Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal. If there has been any franchise more equipped to handle the slow return of its superstar, I'm yet...

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