Lakers

For a brief moment, Magic Johnson didn’t appear in the mood to laugh or smile. That’s because the famed Laker couldn’t help but acknowledge the unsettling reality surrounding the purple and gold, including their championship aspirations and the rehab surrounding Kobe Bryant’s torn left Achilles tendon.

“It’s going to be a tough season especially with Kobe being out,” Johnson said in an interview with this newspaper before a recent brunch at the Skirball Cultural Center for his self-named foundation. “Kobe has to get back healthy. That’s the key. If Kobe is back healthy, are they a legitimate championship team? I don’t think so. Are they a playoff team? I think they can be a playoff team if he’s back healthy. It’s all up to Kobe and his health status.”

Bryant hasn’t experienced any setbacks with his injury, even traveling to Italy in recent weeks while fitting in his rehab work. But contrary to the recent optimism expressed from Lakers executive vice president of player personnel Jim Buss, Bryant isn’t expected to return during training camp. When Bryant suffered the injury April 12 against Golden State, the Lakers estimated he’d stay out at least for six to nine months. That timetable hasn’t changed. Bryant also has publicly circled November or December as his return, keeping the possibility he could play by or near the season opener.

Reported by Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News (Blog)