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All teams can be torpedoed by injuries, but health concerns surround three of L.A.'s big four.
Injuries are the one thing that could make the Lakers fare even worse than they did the past two seasons.
Dwight Howard is returning from back surgery and looks to be ready to go, but there are some underlying physiological issues created by his playing style that concern the team. His preseason regimen has focused on footwork and drills that improve his proprioception (understanding where his body is), but if he falls back into his old habits, there is a chance that he may re-aggravate his back injury.
Few think the Lakers are a legit contender unless the big man is at least a close facsimile of his old self.
Then there is Kobe. Given his tolerance for pain and willingness to play through injury, negative Kobe Bryant health news draws less attention than it would for mere mortals. He will play in any game that really matters, says the consensus, so don't fret.
This is why the news that he may miss Los Angeles' opening game tomorrow has not influenced most people's assessment of the Lakers' chances to win this year. But while Bryant is "only" 34, he has a ton of mileage on his body and is, presumably, human. Injuries do affect his performance, if not his tenacity, and the Lakers need him healthy to win a title.
The "good" news: the Lakers have been so disappointing during their last two playoff runs that Kobe has only played 22 postseason games (and just 162 games including the regular season) in the two years since he won his last NBA title.
To put that number in perspective, Bryant played 201 games in the preceding two seasons while winning back-to-back championships. This relative period of rest over the past 28 months may bode well for the purple and gold, but let's be completely clear: if Kobe isn't at least 90 percent in the playoffs, this team probably can't beat Miami even if it does win the West.
Meanwhile, Steve Nash isn't facing any specific injury today, but he has had a bad back for years and is now leaving the comfort food that is the Phoenix's Suns legendary training staff.
In season after season, he has largely relegated his back condition to an afterthought, but he will be 39 before the All-Star break and hoping to play in more playoff games this season than he ever has before. Only twice in his career has he been asked to play more than 16 postseason contests. It will take a lot more than that for him to finally get a ring.