The Los Angeles Lakers lost their season opener to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night, predictably sending some fans into immediate panic mode. The bigger news, however, was that Kobe Bryant made it through the contest without any injury setbacks.
Bryant wasn't officially marked in the starting lineup until just hours before tipoff due to a lingering foot injury, but he toughed it out en route to 22 points on 11-of-14 shooting. He looked no worse for wear in 35 minutes of action.
His ability to play without any limitations is far more important than the loss—most Lakers fans understand that. But it's hard to find rational thinking early in the season, when overreaction always finds a way to reign supreme.
A lot of time was spent talking about things like Mike Brown's offense and the lack of chemistry with several new pieces in place, but those things are going to work themselves out over the course of the next 81 games.
It's important to remember that it takes time for players, even superstars like Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, to get accustomed to their new surroundings. The same goes for the returning Lakers getting used to their new teammates.
Over time, the team will eventually get on the same page, and the Lakers will be in the championship hunt, as expected. An opening-night loss certainly isn't enough to change that outlook.
By contrast, if Bryant would have been visibly struggling to deal with his foot injury or had he been unable to make it through the game healthy, that would have been a legitimate, major story. Not to mention something that could derail those high expectations.
The Lakers clearly had their sights set on a title when they brought in Nash and Howard, but the 34-year-old shooting guard is still the player opposing teams will key in on throughout the season. He's the engine that makes the Lakers run.
Losing him for any extended period of time would have a gigantic impact on the Lakers' ability to chase their ultimate goal.
Even though Los Angeles would have enough talent to keep winning games without him, it all comes back to building chemistry for the playoffs. Last night illustrated that the Lakers still have a long way to go in that area, and Bryant needs to stay healthy for it to happen.
So while everybody gets caught up in a single loss, Lakers fans should rest easy knowing Bryant showed no ill effects after a couple worrisome days.
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