(BEIJING) — After getting knocked out of the playoffs in the first round last season, Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni is lighting a fire under his players this preseason.
The team will have to start the regular season without 15-time All-Star and five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant, who is still recovering from a torn Achilles tendon and an ailing right knee.
“We have guys competing for jobs,” D’Antoni said at practice Monday as the team gets ready for games in China. “They’re trying to earn jobs. So it’s a hard time for these players but they’re doing well.”
With Dwight Howard signing with the Rockets in the offseason, a lot of the Lakers production will come from center Pau Gasol and guard Steve Nash.
“It’s just a matter of having everybody else healthy so we have as many guys as possible to be able to make up for Kobe’s absence,” Gasol said.
Bryant is expected to miss much of the season, but still hopes to be back.
“I think it was an unfortunate year,” the popular Bryant told the Chinese media on Monday. “We got so many injuries, decimated with injuries. But…we’re looking forward to getting back out there this year and making up for lost time.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN Newswire
Jill Martin, CNN