Mavs vs. Lakers: Why LA Will Win Opener Regardless of Kobe Bryant's Health
A foot injury injury may hold Kobe Bryant out of the Los Angeles Lakers' season opener against the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night, but L.A. has the tools and talent in place to notch a victory even without him.
Mike Trudell has the latest on Bryant's status from Monday's practice:
Neither Kobe Bryant (foot strain) not Jordan Hill (herniated disc) practiced today. Both are "day to day."
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) October 29, 2012
It is a totally revamped roster in L.A., but last year's team managed to go 5-2 in the future Hall of Famer's absence. Players were willing to rise to the occasion and maintain a playoff-caliber level of basketball then, and now the personnel is even more geared toward doing just that.
Here's the difference: This Lakers squad has the additions of dominant center Dwight Howard and phenomenal point guard Steve Nash. The anticipation of their debuts in the Staples Center alone is going to cause the arena to quake, regardless of the type of games they'll have.
While the Mavs' own Darren Collison will likely neutralize the impact Nash has on the game with his own offensive prowess, it will be Howard who has the biggest advantage on the inside.
According to a report by Tim McMahon of ESPNDallas.com, the Mavs will be without newly acquired starting center Chris Kaman, who has a strained right calf.
Starting in his place? Eddy Curry, who was just picked up off the waiver wire on Thursday because of the ailing Kaman. In nine previous NBA seasons, Kaman has not made it through an entire season as a starter. That streak will continue in 2012-13 right off the bat.
Even worse for Dallas: Superstar power forward Dirk Nowitzki will be out for the first couple of weeks as he recovers from arthroscopic knee surgery. The injury woes for the Lakers' opponent are far worse than their own, even though it's Bryant who's missing.
So here's the Mavs' starting front line for the time being: Curry and the 33-year-old, perpetually eroding version of Elton Brand.
Against the likes of Howard and Pau Gasol, it's hard to fancy their chances. Curry just got onto the court for the first time in the preseason on Friday night and has been a bust in every measurable way since being taken No. 4 overall in the 2001 draft by the Chicago Bulls.
Free-agent acquisition Antawn Jamison will likely be the first man off the bench for L.A. With his ability to spot up from deep and take big men off the dribble, Brand and Brandan Wright are going to have their hands full.
Jodie Meeks will start in place of Bryant, and he may be overmatched facing Dallas shooting guard O.J. Mayo, who ground his way to a lucrative contract with the Mavs this offseason thanks to impressive play off the Memphis Grizzlies bench. No one has ever questioned Mayo's offensive potential, but he has developed into a stellar defender as well.
That won't be enough for Dallas to pull this one out, though. Its lack of size on the interior will lead to Curry getting manhandled by Howard all night long on both ends of the court.
Head coach Mike Brown has the best defensive center in the league at his disposal and will take full advantage of it.
He can leave the offense to Nash, who will run pick-and-rolls with his big men and makes all the right decisions to give the team chances to score. Considering the lack of quickness in the Mavs frontcourt, it should be easy for Nash to get to the hoop as well, then drop dump passes to his big men for easy finishes around the rim.
As vital as Bryant will be to the Lakers' success and hopeful title run this year, his team will be fine without him for Game 1 of 82.
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