If Bryant needs to miss a few games to start the season, the Lakers won't have a problem, as they have one of the most talented starting lineups in the league. They are indeed one of the oldest, too, so this team should be prepared to deal with short recovery absences from a number of its players.
The core of this team—Steve Nash is 38 and also going into his 17th season; Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace are 32; Dwight Howard is the young gun at 26—will need to rest at times throughout the season, and even the smallest injury concern will likely be treated with extreme caution. Shooting for 70 wins in the regular season is not this team’s goal; winning a championship is.
Having the starting five healthy for the playoffs will be Mike Brown’s primary focus. Expect the L.A. head coach to follow the strategy Gregg Popovich used with the San Antonio Spurs last season, when the team listed “Old” as a reason for Tim Duncan not dressing during a game.
While the Lakers are a significantly better team with Bryant on the court, there is more than enough talent on the roster to land this team near the top of the Western Conference standings, even if the star scorer misses significant time.
Nash, Howard and Bryant have all led teams to the postseason while surrounded by marginal talent, and each is capable of taking on the alpha dog role if one or any of the other stars need a rest.
How will the Lakers finish this season?
The challenge will come in ensuring that the team works well together and has excellent chemistry before the playoffs arrive. This is a process that will not take all 82 games. Bryant, Nash and Howard are not only extremely talented, but they complement each other’s skill sets.
Bryant may be one of the more selfish players in the league on the offensive end of the floor, but he has never played on a team with so many scoring options. Implementing the Princeton offense will cause him to share the ball more than he did last season, when his 23 shots per game was the highest average in the NBA.
In addition, Howard is not a player who needs a high volume of shots to make his mark on a game, and his primary contribution to the Lakers is on defense. Nash and Gasol also help with the team’s chemistry, as both are extremely unselfish players. Gasol led all power forwards last season with 3.7 assists per game, and Nash's 10.7 assists was second only to Rajon Rondo among all players.
The complementary pieces in the starting lineup will allow the players to quickly mesh together.
Ultimately, Bryant missing a few games will not cause the Lakers to lose significantly more games than they would if the he were on the floor. The team’s ability to get on the same page for a championship run will also not suffer a major setback if he takes his time recovering from his foot injury.