Why Kobe Bryant's Foot Injury Is a Blessing in Disguise for Lakers

Kelly ScalettaFeatured ColumnistOctober 30, 2012

ONTARIO, CA - OCTOBER 10:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers smiles as he remains in street clothes for the game with the Portland Trail Blazers at Citizens Business Bank Arena on October 10, 2012 in Ontario, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Kobe Bryant may be waiting for his heel to heal, but the agony of his feet doesn't mean the Lakers are destined to experience the agony of defeat.

In fact, Bryant's foot injury may just be a blessing in disguise. 

Now, why would a team be blessed by not having the player who is perhaps the greatest in franchise history?

Because the wealth of veteran talent that joined the Lakers this offseason needs time to gel, and Bryant's dominating presence on the floor could hamper that development.

Kobe Bryant has the second-highest usage percentage in the NBA over the last five years, using 33.7 percent of all Lakers possessions while he's on the court. His usage after he turned 30 is the highest of any player in the history of the game. 

To say the Lakers are dependent on him is either stating the obvious, or to some, stating the ignorant. Some would postulate that while Bryant has been using possessions excessively, he is denying his teammates opportunities which they could utilize more efficiently. 

The beauty here is that that argument is moot for the purposes of this one. Either way, Bryant's absence gives the Lakers a chance to function without him.

And that is the blessing. 

Many teams added a couple of players this year. Not many added players the caliber of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. The impact they'll have on the offense is enormous. Or at least it should be. 

Even though the Lakers are installing the Princeton offense, the NBA is still a pick-and-roll league, and Steve Nash is one of the best pick-and-roll ball-handlers in history. His assists are a testament to that, as he's currently fifth in NBA history in that department. And he's gotten better with age: Since turning 30, Nash has led the league in assists six of the last eight years, averaging 10.9 per game.

The only player with more dimes after 30 is John Stockton. 

Howard scored a ridiculous 1.36 points per play last year on Orlando's pick-and-roll plays, making him easily the best roll man in the league. Blake Griffin averaged only 1.08. Andrew Bynum, supposedly much more gifted offensively, averaged 1.12.

Howard outshone them all, and that was with Jameer "Who Is That" Nelson feeding him the ball. 

Simply put, there is no tandem who will run the pick-and-roll better than Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. You've got the best on both ends of the play. 

But there is also the Princeton aspect of this too.

Enter Pau Gasol.

Last year no power forward had more assists than Pau Gasol, one of the best passing big men in the game today. He's also one of the best shooting big men as only five power forwards or centers made more jump shots than Gasol did last year. 

In fact, even if you remove Kobe Bryant from the equation, you can make the case that, offensively speaking, the best trio outside of Miami is the Lakers second, third and fourth options. 

While the Heat figured out how to work together after a season, this trio of Lakers naturally fit together much better and should be able to find chemistry rather quickly—provided they have the opportunity. 

And therein lies the blessing of Kobe's injury. What these new Lakers don't have is time playing together. Even in the preseason they hardly had a chance to be on the court at the same time.

Not having Kobe Bryant actually gives those three a chance to mesh. Once they start working together, it will be easier to integrate Bryant into the offense that those three have been learning than to make the three of them adjust to Kobe's usage-heavy attack.

Bryant has a tendency to dominate the ball, even if he doesn't try to. It's not the "willing" so much as the "working" here that is at issue. Bryant has certain habits and those habits could frustrate the development of the Lakers offense. That will be easier to amend if he is the only one who has to change. 

As a result, the Lakers will be a better team at the end of the season if Bryant sits out a few games at the beginning of the year.