Is Kobe Bryant on pace to deliver his most prolific season of all time?
Thus far in 2012-13, Bryant is averaging 30.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.6 steals per game. He's also shooting a career-best 47.7 percent from the floor.
Unfortunately, the Lakers are 15-19 and in danger of missing the NBA postseason for just the second time since 1994.
The Lakers have lost four in a row and five of their past six games. Most recently, they lost to the Houston Rockets.
By lose, of course, I mean to say that they were shellacked by a score of 125-112.
A performance that Bryant is more than capable of providing.
If Kobe is able to rally the troops, he will cap off his most prolific season of all time. If he is unable to, this will be remembered as just another season in which individual statistics outweigh one's true brilliance.
So what is it that makes this a potential season for the ages?
Injuries Strike, Burden Increases
According to Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles, both Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol will miss an indefinite amount of time due to injury. Both sustained their ailments during a 112-105 loss to the Denver Nuggets on January 6, 2013.
In turn, Kobe Bryant will be burdened with an even greater deal of the offensive burden.
During the Denver game, Gasol was struck with an inadvertent elbow from JaVale McGee. Gasol began to bleed profusely and was escorted to the locker room.
He has since been diagnosed with a concussion.
As for Howard, he aggravated a sprained rotator cuff in his right shoulder. D-12 continued to to play but his injury was later diagnosed as a torn labrum.
Howard has since downplayed the injury (via ESPN Los Angeles).
Although the time frame is undefined, the Lakers are going to be without their starting big men for a significant period of time. A period of time in which the Lakers play elite opponents with .500 drifting further and further away.
During their first game without Gasol and Howard, Bryant took on a facilitating role. In turn, four players took more than 10 shots.
The Lakers lost by 13 points to the Houston Rockets.
The time for balance has been lost. Kobe must turn it up.
Factoring In Age
If Kobe Bryant maintains his current pace, he will be the first player in NBA history to average at least 30 points per game at the age of 34 or older.
In fact, Kobe would be just the fifth player in NBA history to average at least 30 points above the age of 30. The other players to achieve said feat are Michael Jordan, Jerry West, Rick Barry and Allen Iverson.
Iverson dropped 33 and Barry put up 30.6 at the respective age of 30. West was 31 when he averaged 31.2.
Jordan was 32 when he maintained an average of 30.4 points per contest.
As for Kobe, he's presently averaging 30.5 points per game. By comparison, Jordan averaged 28.7 points at the same age of 34.
For further perspective, only four players prior to Bryant had averaged 25 points after the age of 34.
Those players are Jordan, Bernard King, Alex English and Dominique Wilkins. For Kobe to be mentioned in their company is a sign of his individual greatness.
The question is, can his numbers carry the Lakers to a turnaround? If not, they lose their luster.
In Need of an Epic Turnaround
Over the past five seasons, the average win percentage for the eighth seed in the Western Conference is .584. That equates to roughly 48 wins per season.
In order for the Lakers to win 48 games, they'd need to win 33 of their next 48. A win percentage of .688.
A win percentage that only four teams posted in 2011-12.
If the Lakers were able to achieve said feat and make the postseason, Bryant's statistics would hold unparalleled weight. From a devastating start to an awe-inspiring finish, there wouldn't be a more riveting story in the NBA.
As a result, Kobe's would solidify this season as his most prolific ever.
Unfortunately, that story has yet to be written. Kobe must orchestrate one of the greatest turnarounds in NBA history.
If he fails to, a season of legendary individual feats will be lost amidst the disappointment of the Los Angeles Lakers.