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7 Hidden Bright Spots for the LA Lakers So Far

J.M. PoulardContributor IIJanuary 9, 2014

7 Hidden Bright Spots for the LA Lakers So Far

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    The LA Lakers
    The LA LakersAndrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    Based on the franchise’s lofty standards, the Los Angeles Lakers are going through a bad season.

    Injuries and lack of talent have resulted in a spot near the bottom of the Western Conference standings, but the team still has a few bright spots to build on that can potentially cheer up the fanbase.

    The positive things going for the Lakers are not exclusive to this season. Indeed, some of the team’s good fortunes impact this campaign as well as the next ones.

    We will focus on factors that affect the present and future of the franchise. Decisions or moves that affect the landscape of the Lakers now and later will likely end up being part of what helps L.A. get back to the top.

Nick Young

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    Nick Young of the LA Lakers
    Nick Young of the LA LakersStephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Nick Young has embraced his role as the Los Angeles Lakers’ sixth man, which means the return of Kobe Bryant probably will not hinder him.

    Young has been a force with his scoring and has actually fit into the team’s offense. The former Philadelphia 76er is productive and loves playing for the Purple and Gold, per a report by Tracy Wesseinberg for SlamOnline.com.

    Consequently, Los Angeles fans can probably expect Young to stick around for the foreseeable future.

Still Playoff Hopeful

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    The LA Lakers are on the outside looking in.
    The LA Lakers are on the outside looking in.Bill Baptist/Getty Images

    With the All-Star break nearly a month away, the Los Angeles Lakers are technically on the outside looking in as far as the postseason goes, but they are still within range despite a multitude of injuries.

    Mike D’Antoni’s group has remained afloat and might actually threaten for a spot in the tournament when Bryant regains a semblance of his elite form.

    Getting this group into the postseason might be enough to get some of the guys on the roster to take a hometown discount and remain with the franchise going forward for the sake of being part of something special in the City of Angels.

Xavier Henry Can Play

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    Xavier Henry of the LA Lakers
    Xavier Henry of the LA LakersJuan Ocampo/Getty Images

    After two unremarkable stints with the Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Hornets, Xavier Henry has demonstrated he is an NBA-caliber swingman.

    What’s more, he has done this with the Los Angeles Lakers and might be inclined to remain with the squad that finally gave him a chance to unleash his potential.

    Henry will be a free agent at season’s end, and the Lakers will likely want to pursue some kind of long-term deal. Mitch Kupchak probably has the inside track on re-signing him and fortifying his bench for future seasons.

LA Lakers Right on Track

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    Pau Gasol's expiring contract will help the LA Lakers free up cap space this summer.
    Pau Gasol's expiring contract will help the LA Lakers free up cap space this summer.Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    The Los Angeles Lakers entered the season with roughly $28 million in projected cap space if they renounce all of their free agents by season’s end. Although some trade rumors floated around for a bit, the team has remained intact.

    Kupchak has stood firm throughout most of the season and, consequently, the cap room has been left untouched. That’s an important part of the franchise’s future, given that it plans to reload by acquiring a star to complement Bryant this summer.

    That plan still appears to be in motion, and thus, Lakers fans should have some sense of assurance that the team will be back to competing for playoff appearances—and possibly titles—by next season.

Kobe Bryant Will Play Again This Season

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    Kobe Bryant finishes at the basket.
    Kobe Bryant finishes at the basket.Joe Murphy/Getty Images

    Bryant is the team’s best player and its most entertaining athlete. The Los Angeles Lakers have always been one of the biggest draws in the league because of their superstar, and one has to assume that will not change.

    Bryant has missed time because of a ruptured Achilles and knee fracture, but he will eventually rejoin his teammates and restore some of the Lakers’ lost luster. The franchise is simply uninteresting without Bryant, and thankfully, he will be back at some point.

    With Bryant back, Los Angeles has a chance to compete in 2013-14, and more importantly, it shows to the rest of the league that he can still play at a high level.

    That’s an incredibly important point because the Lakers will have cap space in the offseason. Prospective free agents will want to know whether Bryant is still an elite player before joining the franchise, and his eventual return this season should put those fears to rest.

Pau Gasol’s Value

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    Pau Gasol
    Pau GasolBill Baptist/Getty Images

    Pau Gasol has struggled under Mike D’Antoni and might be on his way out of town either by the trade deadline or the offseason. Mind you, in the brief time he’s shared the floor with Bryant, he has actually looked like a solid big man.

    Per NBAwowy, Gasol is converting 54.4 percent of his shots with Bryant on the floor and a mere 43.8 percent with the 2-guard on the bench. That speaks to Bryant’s importance to Gasol.

    The Spaniard will get an opportunity to play once again with Bryant and potentially increase his value prior to the trade deadline provided that Bryant's return occurs by late January. That will give the Lakers the possibility to acquire some pieces (players or draft picks). It’s possible Gasol does not fit in Los Angeles’ long-term plans.

    Still, the Purple and Gold will get an opportunity to extract whatever they can from him once he demonstrates he is still a terrific talent while playing alongside Bryant. In the event Bryant only returns after the swapping date has expired, the Lakers will not be able to get any assets for Gasol, but the team will still fight for a postseason berth with Bryant playing alongside his partner in crime.

Kobe Bryant’s Future

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    Kobe Bryant
    Kobe BryantAndrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    Bryant will retire as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. The 2-guard signed an extension early in the season that will likely expire simultaneously as Bryant’s career ends.

    Lakers fans never have to worry about their all-time leading scorer playing in another uniform or rushing his return simply to increase his value. The team took care of him; therefore, Bryant and the Lakers can focus on their future together.

    Bryant will probably ride into the sunset with the aid of a new sidekick next season and look every bit as good as he always has. It’s the perfect ending for both the franchise and its followers.

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