A Kobe Bryant-sized injury cloud hovers over the Los Angeles Lakers as they host the LA Clippers on opening day of the new NBA season at the Staples Center.
All off the Lakers' preseason has been basically about Bryant's condition and if the superstar will be able to make it to the opening day of the regular season. Well, with the opening game upon us, the answer to the Bryant-availability question is an emphatic no.
Bryant said he was scaling back on his workouts last week, leading to suggestions that the veteran had suffered a setback to the Achilles injury which has kept him out for over six months. However, the Lakers quickly dispelled those worries, and said Bryant's rehabilitation was going as planned.
"He pushed it pretty good, now he's just letting it settle in, then he'll up it again," said Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni. "I think there will be some starts and ends and starts. That's just the way it goes. He'll just have to monitor it and he knows better than anybody, so he'll know what to do."
There is still no definite timeline on his comeback to the Lakers team, however. "He'll be back when he can get back," D'Antoni added. "I'm sure he's making progress and he'll be back as soon as he can.
"We'll all see it together. We're not trying to hide or pull a curtain back, Wizard of Oz is not behind the curtain. He'll go when he can go."
Meanwhile, with Bryant injured, Steve Nash struggling with a couple of niggles and Dwight Howard now enjoying life in Houston, the Clippers will look at this as the perfect opportunity to get one over the Lakers, not only in the opening game, but also as the season wears on.
Doc Rivers, who took over as Clipper head coach after leaving the Boston Celtics, understands the need for success in his organization for his team to be called true rivals to the Lakers, one of the most storied franchises in the NBA.
"The Lakers have been pretty dominant," Rivers said. "We've won as of late. It's going to take us a lot more to call it a rivalry, honestly. We have to do a lot more stuff and then we can call it a rivalry. I don't think we've done enough yet.
"[We have to] have won a lot in the playoffs. They can say that. We can't. It's tough for me. I got to give them that respect. That's the respect we have to earn. They've already earned that through history. We haven't. That's something we have to earn."
Where to watch
The game is scheduled for an 8 am IST start on Wednesday morning with live telecast on Sony Six.