Buss says Bryant could be back in the preseason

Jim Buss’ most interesting wager of the week was placed outside a casino.

The Lakers vice president indicated Thursday that Kobe Bryant might be even further ahead of schedule in his return from a torn Achilles’ tendon than the star himself indicated last week.

“I would bet a lot of money on him coming back in the preseason,” Buss told NBA TV during the broadcast of the Lakers’ 72-68 summer league victory over the Milwaukee Bucks at the Thomas & Mack Center. “He’s going to come back when he is right. I see him coming back at the beginning of this season.”

Bryant, who suffered the injury in April, said last week that his movement remained limited but he expected to become more active with conditioning in August. The initial timetable for his recovery was listed at six to nine months, meaning it’s conceivable he could return by the Lakers’ opener.


Bryant’s uncertain status, the departures of Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace and the signing of several low-end free agents have led to a widespread perception that the Lakers will be fringe playoff contenders next season.

Asked about the NBA’s take on the struggles of one of its premier franchises, Commissioner David Stern said he didn’t expect the Lakers to concede another down season.

“I expect that the Lakers aren’t thinking about the premise of your question, which implies that they’re not going to do better next year than they did the last year,” Stern said during a meeting with reporters at the Wynn hotel. “I don’t want to speculate beyond that, but I can tell you that’s not the basis upon which the Lakers are functioning. They expect to have a much better year.”

Stern said the releases of World Peace and Miami’s Mike Miller via the so-called amnesty clause show that the new collective bargaining agreement that includes stiffer luxury taxes has successfully curtailed spending among large-market teams.

“Teams are not only eliminating the tax payment due with particular contracts,” Stern said, “but they’re also keeping from going into even a higher [tax] bracket by those contracts being in place to get with other [cheaper] contracts that they might sign.”

The Lakers replaced World Peace with Nick Young, who signed a two-year contract that next season will pay him the veteran’s minimum of $1.2 million. Waiving World Peace could save the Lakers about $15 million in luxury taxes.

Play it again

Stern said the league had approved expanded use of instant replay during its board of governors meeting.

Replay can now be used to reverse or uphold calls of a block or a charge in the restricted area; to determine whether an off-the-ball foul occurred before or after a player has started a shooting motion on a made shot or the ball was released on an inbounds throw-in; and to add unsportsmanlike acts as reviewable in replays initially used to look at other matters.

The league also approved a rule change in which teams who have players step out of bounds as part of their offensive rotation will now lose the ball as a turnover.

Stern also announced that all 30 teams had unanimously approved the return of the Charlotte Hornets nickname after next season.

Winning ways

It hasn’t been a bummer of a summer league as usual for the Lakers.

In their five most recent trips to Las Vegas, the Lakers had posted a winning record only once. Now they’re 3-1 after winning their opener in the single-elimination tournament against the Bucks.

Forward Marcus Landry scored 18 points Thursday and center Robert Sacre had 16 for the Lakers, who will play the winner of a late game between Golden State and Dallas on Saturday night in a quarterfinal.

The Clippers (1-3) will play New York on Friday in a consolation game after losing their tournament opener against Dallas on Thursday.