What’s Next for Kobe Bryant If Lakers Don’t Make the Playoffs?

No one doubts that Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant will return from his Achilles injury, and it's a safe bet to think that Bryant may be ready to go by opening day of the 2013-14 season. But what kind of Kobe will the Lakers welcome back?

And if the Lakers fail to qualify for the postseason this year, the Kobe situation could get a little complicated.

According to ESPN's Dave McMenamin, Bryant's recovery period may take anywhere from six to nine months, but can Kobe's fans expect that he will be the same player he was before he was injured? More importantly, can the Lakers?

Since Kobe's season-ending injury, there have been whispers about the Lakers potentially using their amnesty clause on Bryant during the July 1-9 window designated by the NBA. What was once an unthinkable proposition doesn't seem so silly now.

The Lakers could save themselves $60 million to $80 million in penalties they would incur for being so far north of the league's salary cap, and Bryant would still receive his $30 million next season.

In spite of Kobe's injury, failing to reach the postseason would certify the Lakers as one of the biggest busts in the history of team sports, and it would give the franchise a legitimate reason to reshape the roster. And what better way to give yourself wiggle room than by amnestying your most expensive player?

To his credit, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak says he hasn't even considered using the clause on Bryant, but it's hard to believe him considering how quickly the circumstances have changed.

Bryant is no spring chicken, and the Achilles injury may be a result of the constant pounding he has endured this season. The tendon will heal, but there is no way for Bryant to recover the quickness and lateral movement that comes with that that type of injury.

Not to mention the natural deterioration of skills from the advance of Father Time.

I cou...

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