Kobe Bryant

The best option for the Los Angeles Lakers to ensure immediate future success (beyond the end of next season) is tanking, without actually mentioning the word. The problem? Few players hate to lose as much as Kobe Bryant does, and he alone, if his comeback from injury is successful, is worthy quite a lot of wins even for a damaged team like the Lakers.

Veteran like Pau Gasol and Steve Nash aren’t going to purposely look bad as well. In general, players don’t tank, teams do. They give their head coaches the orders to rest their best player at moments you wouldn’t expect them to, “helping” their teams lose.

But Bryant is making amazing progress, and is likely to be in full shape when the first game of the season comes around. He might not be as good as he was last season, but anything less than 24-25 points per game, not matter how many shots he has to take, is going to be very surprising.

But the Lakers’ chances of winning next season, which means somehow making it into the playoffs, which might not actually be in their best interest if they believe in getting a high draft pick, re if Steve Nash and Pau Gasol are heavily involved. It’s uncertain how much Nash has left in the tank, and if Gasol’s knees will hold up.

Bryant

But it seems both of them are really motivated to put last season behind them, and for Gasol, there’s also the promise of being much more involved and finding himself on the floor in places he’s more comfortable in. The problem is, as he and Mike D’Antoni talk about the subject of next season, they can’t seem to avoid somehow blaming the situation on Dwight Howard.

Gasol: It was at times frustrating because of the reality of that specific situation. Obviously the franchise wanted Dwight to stay and everyone, or a lot of people, tried to make him comfortable and please him at times.

D’Antoni: There was just a lot of factors last year that won’t come up this year. I even told Pau, you make decisions based a lot of times on the future that probably, if you were just doing the competitive, basketball thing, the decision would have been something else.

For once, we’ll leave the Howard subject alone. The Lakers are no longer about him, despite his hold on the mind of their more prominent figures. The Lakers are going to ride out their current roster and then head into the 2014 free agency with hardly a player on the roster, and with a lot of options to make a quick rebuild, if they move quickly once the floodgates open.

There isn’t going to be any tanking early on, as the Lakers believe that its their responsibility to put on a winning team. Kobe Bryant, still, at his age, is almost enough for that goal, especially with a healthy Gasol and Nash next to him. The mistake of not amnestying either one of them (Bryant or Gasol) can’t be revised. All they can hope for is for next season to somehow be a lot less negative than the previous one.

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