The Los Angeles Lakers were assumed to have an easy road through the 2012-13 NBA season, and weren't supposed to be challenged much until at least the Western Conference Finals of the 2013 playoffs.
That's the magnitude of the expectations this Lakers squad has in front of them, and rightfully so. Anytime a perennial contender acquires one of the top 10 players in the game, as L.A. did when it traded for Dwight Howard, not to mention a future Hall of Fame inductee and two-time MVP like Steve Nash, it's Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy or bust.
Even after the Lakers went 0-8 during the preseason, it seems inevitable that Howard, Nash and the rest of the Lakers' high-powered roster will be able to figure things out when the games start to count, because there's too much talent for them not to.
And then Kobe Bryant got hurt.
According to The Washington Post:
The Los Angeles Lakers are not sure if Kobe Bryant is going to play in Tuesday’s opener against the Dallas Mavericks.
Bryant is nursing a bruised and strained right foot. He did not make the trip to San Diego for the Lakers’ final preseason game on Thursday night against the Sacramento Kings.
“He came in and got some treatment for his foot,” coach Mike Brown said. “It didn’t make sense for him to make the bus trip because he needs to elevate the foot. And the 2½-hour ride down and back would not be good.
With Bryant, the team's unquestioned leader and go-to player, uncertain for the season opener, one has to wonder what this will mean for the future.
At 34, Bryant's health has to be a concern for the Lakers, and though the team is stocked with an incredibly talented supporting cast, his absence will be an opportunity for someone else to prove that he can lead the team to victories even with the six-time NBA champion attending the game in a suit.
Nash was capable of doing it with the Phoenix Suns and Howard was the heart and soul of an Orlando Magic team that made a number of deep postseason runs, but neither strike fear into opposing teams quite like the Black Mamba with the game on the line.
Pau Gasol, Howard, Nash and Bryant didn't seem to mesh overwhelmingly well during the preseason, but nobody seems to question whether they'll contend for the 2013 title.
If Bryant is out and the team still manages to string together convincing wins, it'll go a long way toward proving that chemistry won't be an issue with this star-studded group down the road.
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