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What Is Kobe Bryant's Proper Role on the LA Lakers Next Year?

OAKLAND, CA - MARCH 25:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers in action against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena on March 25, 2013 in Oakland, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Richard LeContributor IIIJune 14, 2013

With Kobe Bryant pushing for an opening night return, there is no doubt that if he is successful, the Black Mamba will have some leeway in terms of adjusting his role and responsibilities on the court until he is back to 100 percent.

However, with a Los Angeles Lakers franchise that had just suffered one of its most humbling playoff defeats in the past decade, the rabid fans and intense media spotlight in L.A. may not afford Bryant the time he needs to re-integrate himself.

In fact, perhaps Bryant's will and pride won't allow him to take a backseat while his franchise is in shambles, and he is physically able to be on the court to help it.

Ultimately, Bryant will need to shoulder almost as much responsibility as he has always had with the Lakers as long as he is able to be on the court.

While he won't be tasked with scoring as much as fans are accustomed to, Bryant will need to be the facilitator and initiator on offense.

He showed that he was capable of being more than a one-dimensional scorer last season and allowed his passing and his playmaking to buoy the Lakers into the playoffs.

Although Bryant's scoring may drop initially once he returns from injury, expect him to be a meticulous and cerebral passer.

Though some of this facilitating responsibility may be mitigated if Steve Nash can stay healthy and produce like the Lakers expected of him this season, there is no doubt that the Lakers don't have a true offensive threat outside of Bryant and Pau Gasol.

With the Lakers' role players being inconsistent last season and Dwight Howard's half-court post offense showing little improvement over the years, the Lakers will still need Bryant and Gasol to orchestrate the offense.

Bryant's re-integration into the rotation shouldn't be an issue, simply because there isn't a lot of depth and talent at the guard positions.

Even an injured and hindered Bryant is more productive than an inconsistent Jodie Meeks or an aging Chris Duhon.

While he may struggle with his shot and conditioning, expect the Black Mamba to take the onus of the responsibility on offense, locking down opposing guards and spearheading the perimeter defense.

While fans should not initially expect Bryant to be as efficient and productive statistically as he was this past season, they should still expect him to play major minutes and be a leader on the court.

Off of the court, they can expect what Bryant has always provided for the Lakers during his tenure.

While he isn't as charismatic or as friendly as LeBron James or a player of his ilk, Bryant is still a leader, and he likes to lead by example.

Expect Vino to continue leading by displaying his extraordinary work ethic and being a constant critic in terms of analyzing film and demanding more from his teammates.

In fact, the only thing that may be mitigated in Bryant's game may be his scoring.

Even with the dip in athleticism that is to be expected from age and returning from an Achilles tendon injury, Bryant should be able to continue to facilitate and to rebound well due to his above-average size for a shooting guard.

With Howard possibly leaving for greener pastures by departing to Houston, the Lakers will still need Bryant to be the Black Mamba and spearhead the Lakers' offense.

However, facilitating, rebounding, playing defense and providing leadership are what the Lakers franchise can expect of the Black Mamba once he returns.

Ultimately, the Lakers need Bryant to be Bryant—minus the prolific scoring initially—once he returns from his injury.

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