This past week, the Lakers played a pair of games in China before returning home to prepare for the regular season. 

Prior to the second of two losses in China, Kobe Bryant took to the court to sprint and shoot mid-range jumpers. The Lakers all-star guard is working his way back from Achilles surgery -- with no true timetable set for his return.

With the uncertainty surrounding the health of the team's biggest star, the Lakers may find it difficult to break into the top eight in the West.

In fact, the Lakers are not expected to be a playoff team -- at least in the eyes of a gambling website.

Bryant plummeted to 25 in ESPN's individual player rankings. The website also predicted the Lakers to finish in 12th place in the Western Conference.

Soon after, Bryant changed his Twitter avatar to the number 1225, suggesting that he's using ESPN's rankings as motivation.

Bryant is able to dunk, albeit digitally in a new video game.  In real life, he hasn't gotten that type of explosion back in his legs.

A poll of Bryant's contemporaries revealed that they would trust Michael Jordan and Bryant over LeBron James for the final shot in a game.

Bryant also admitted to being brought close to tears by the ovation at Staples Center when he first hobbled out on crutches a few weeks after his April Achilles surgery.

During the trip to China, the team visited the Great Wall. They returned home on Friday night, took Saturday off and resumed practice on Sunday in El Segundo.

The trick for the team, with the regular season approaching on Oct. 29, is to hone their offense and defense without Bryant.

Second-round pick Ryan Kelly (48th overall) finally made his preseason debut, scoring six points in his first exhibition game with the Lakers.

The Lakers waived guard Darius Johnson-Odom, reducing the numbers of players on the roster to 16.

New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony has indicated that he'd like to be a free agent next summer -- leading some to link his future to the Lakers.

In scary news, former Lakers guard Chris Duhon was intentionally struck by a car after getting into an argument with the driver.

The Clippers have decided to cover the Lakers' championship banners for home games at Staples Center.

Finally, Dwight Howard said he believes his choice to leave the Lakers for the Houston Rockets took "guts."

Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.