Why Kobe Bryant’s Road to Elusive 6th Ring Will Only Get Tougher from Here

Kobe Bryant only has a few years left to play at an elite level, which undoubtedly reduces the likelihood of him winning a sixth championship. The Los Angeles Lakers’ all-time leading scorer is currently recovering from a ruptured Achilles he suffered late in the 2012-13 season. The estimate is that he will be out for six to nine months.

An optimistic rehabilitation timetable has him joining the Lakers around the start of 2013-14 training camp. However, if Bryant requires more time for the tear to heal, his return might occur two months into the season.

Keep in mind, there is a possibility he could suffer setbacks. In addition, it’s fair to assume an adjustment of his game will be needed as he learns to cope with his perhaps slightly diminished physical attributes.

The Lakers struggled in the 2013 playoffs with Bryant absent. They lacked shooting, ball-handling and a player capable of creating shots for himself and others. If the superstar guard misses a significant portion of the 2013-14 campaign, it’s quite possible the Lakers will register more losses than victories.

Indeed, the roster itself is far from ideal. Steve Nash missed a large portion of the 2012-13 season with injuries, and the same is true for Pau Gasol.

As presently constructed, the Lakers are not built to withstand injuries.

Their bench is incredibly suspect. During the 2012-13 season, the second unit struggled to produce and give the starters adequate rest time. This is incredibly pertinent considering the team will not be free-agent players during the 2013 offseason.

Per Hoopsworld, if the Lakers bring back the exact same cast from 2012-13 sans Dwight Howard, Antawn Jamison and Earl Clark, they would have $84.2 million committed in player salaries for 2013-14. That figure puts them well over the luxury tax threshold.

Mind you, if the Lakers decide against extending qualifying ...

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