How will the Lakers fare over the 2013-14 regular season, which tips off on Tuesday night at home against the Clippers?
Kobe Bryant will not be in uniform, still recovering from the torn Achilles' tendon suffered on April 12 in a win over the Golden State Warriors.
His recent comments regarding his return included the phrase "Scaled back" -- which certainly doesn't sound encouraging.
Another discouraging matter for the Lakers, as they try to improve upon last year's 45-win total and exit in the first round of the playoffs, is the health of Steve Nash.
Asked on Monday if his neck is stiff or sore, he answered, "Both."
Steve Nash is expected to play against the Clippers despite neck and ankle issues, but may sit a game on back-to-back nights.
Of the team's three veteran stars, Pau Gasol appears to be in the best condition after an injury-plagued 2012-13 season.
For the Lakers to have consistent success, they're going to need Bryant, Nash and Gasol to have healthy, productive seasons.
Right now it's one for three.
Even at full strength, the Lakers need to show they can defend and rebound at a competitive level.
The October and November schedule should be especially difficult without Bryant.
If he can return by December, the Lakers still may head into 2014 below .500 (call it four games under).
The Lakers may make up a little ground in January and February, but not much. March is the month the team will need to make a run.
If the Lakers can hit 38 wins before April, they'll have a shot -- though the final month of the season is unforgiving.
If the writing is on the wall after March, Coach Mike D'Antoni might look to shut down some of his veterans as the team looks to maximize lottery position.
Last season, it took 45 wins to make the playoffs.
Given the uncertainty surrounding Bryant, a 42-40 record sounds about right for the Lakers -- a few games short of a playoff seed.
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