Are the L.A. Lakers Still a Great Team Without Kobe Bryant?
According to CBSsports there is a chance that Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant could miss the team's opener with the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday, but there is no real way to judge the severity of Bryant's foot injury based on statements made by Lakers coach Mike Brown.
Brown's cryptic message is probably intentional, but that does nothing to ease the anxiety of Lakers fans who would love to know the full extent of Bryant's injury.
Hopefully Bryant's foot is only a minor issue that a little rest can cure, but what happens if the injury becomes lingering concern?
Have the Lakers acquired enough fire-power to remain among the league's elite teams, even with a prolonged absence from Bryant?
A Lakers lineup featuring Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol would still be one of the most intimidating in the NBA, but Bryant's absence would magnify an issue that is likely to be exposed later, even if Bryant is healthy for most of the season.
On the surface the Lakers offense would still be potent since the strength of their attack would be centered around Howard and Gasol in the paint. But who else on the Lakers roster besides Nash and Bryant has proved that they can consistently create offense off the dribble?
If opponents prevent Nash's penetration and pack in the middle, it would mean that someone else would need to hit some shots from the perimeter, or create off the dribble.
New Lakers Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks are more comfortable catching and shooting the ball, and while Devin Ebanks and Andrew Goudelock have shown some penetration skills, it remains to be seen if they an do it in a consistent manner.
The Princeton-style offense is based on quick passes and cuts to the basket so the need for someone who can create their own shot will not be paramount, unless the offense breaks down.
Even if Steve Blake and Meeks turn into consistent threats from the perimeter, it will be impossible to replace Bryant's leadership and experience.
The Lakers are still a veteran team without Bryant, but aside from Gasol none of the team's other stars have an understanding of what it takes to win a championship, and it's hard for me to imagine Gasol taking a leadership role in Bryant's absence.
Some people have argued that the Lakers are a better team when Bryant is not in the lineup because the offense is more evenly distributed, but socialism has rarely succeeded when it comes to excellence in the NBA.
The Lakers can still be a competitive team without Bryant and it's possible that they would still be one of the top teams in the West, but they will still fall well short of greatness while Bryant is on the sideline.
Lakers fans across the nation will likely be holding their breath in hopes that Bryant can take the court on opening night with the rest of the team, and if he doesn't a new round of speculation will begin.
So far, Brown doesn't seem too worried about Bryant's injury, which means that Lakers fans probably shouldn't either, but it is a reminder of how fragile a championship dream for the team is regardless of how many stars populate the roster.
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