"We're real excited about some of the possibilities and trying to develop some guys that will turn into good players" D'Antoni said. "It'll be good for them good for the Lakers. It's always exciting to have young guys like that who are willing to learn willing to work hard."

The important players though are the obvious ones and they'll arrive at training camp in six weeks with question marks and asterisks.

Bryant who turns 35 on Friday claims to be ahead of schedule in recovering from a torn Achilles' tendon but hasn't started playing yet. Nash 39 still isn't at full strength after sustaining a broken bone in his leg last season along with a complicated hip and hamstring injury that required numerous epidural shots. Pau Gasol 33 recently began non-basketball activities after undergoing a procedure three months ago to try to prevent further soreness in his knee tendons.

"I think Pau and Nash will be 100% before the season starts" D'Antoni said. "We'll try to go slow with them during preseason and make sure they're OK. We'll see how the season goes but maybe work with them to keep their minutes down to where it's manageable and keep them OK."

Possible playing-time restrictions for Gasol and Nash? Uh-oh.

Meanwhile the Lakers can only hope Bryant returns for the season opener Oct. 29 against the Clippers.

"I think Kobe's still a question mark in the sense that nobody knows for sure" D'Antoni said. "You have to look at his track record and what he's done and how he's battled through things and it's like 'Oh wow.' But until the doctors can tell you and that's another month away that they'll be able to give a timetable we'll see what happens."

D'Antoni added that Bryant would "definitely win the battle. He always does."

Few basketball experts think the Lakers will win enough games to make the playoffs. Three teams that finished below them last season — Portland Minnesota and New Orleans — have improved already-young rosters.

Yet D'Antoni thinks the Lakers can improve upon last season's 45-37 record ... if they stay healthy.