Breaking Down What Kobe Bryant's Ankle Injury Could Mean for Lakers

Morgan Chalfant@@mchalfant16Contributor IIIMarch 19, 2013

Breaking Down What Kobe Bryant's Ankle Injury Could Mean for Lakers

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    Kobe Bryant is arguably one of the most important members of the Los Angeles Lakers squad, but he’s been recently sidelined with an ankle sprain that he endured during the Lakers’ March 13 game against the Hawks. Though it’s unclear exactly how serious the injury is—and how severely it will impact Bryant’s play for the remainder of the season—his sprained left ankle has now caused him to miss two straight games.

    The Lakers can normally count on Bryant’s excellent play night after night, but Los Angeles may need to get used to Bryant scaling back his minutes in the wake of this injury. Let’s examine what Kobe’s ankle sprain could mean for the team. 

Bryant Could Play Through the Injury and Make It Worse

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    Kobe Bryant likes to show his toughness by fighting through injury. During the Lakers’ 99-93 win over the Indiana Pacers on March 15, Bryant played 12 minutes despite the ankle sprain, though he didn’t score any points.

    This kind of intensity is admirable, but it could pose a problem for the Lakers if it forces Bryant to miss time during the playoffs due to an aggravated injury. Instead, it is more rational for Bryant to miss a few games now and fully recover so that his strength will return in time for the postseason. 

Jodie Meeks Needs to Step Up at Guard

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    If Bryant is going to continue to miss some time, Lakers shooting guard Jodie Meeks will continue to play in Kobe’s place, according to Yahoo! Sports.

    When Bryant sat out on March 17 for the Lakers game against Sacramento, Meeks played decent minutes but didn’t put up big numbers at all; he totaled six points, zero rebounds and zero assists in 28 minutes. For the 2012-13 season, he is averaging 7.9 points, 2.0 rebounds and 0.7 assists in 19.3 minutes. Hopefully, as Meeks gets more time on the court and eases into his role as a more prominent Lakers guard, he will boast some better statistics.

    Given the possibility that Bryant’s injury will prompt him to continue to watch his minutes, Meeks definitely needs to step up and contribute more points to make up for the loss of the star shooting guard. 

Dwight Howard Could Have a Bigger Starring Role

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    Seeing as the older Lakers—Bryant, Gasol and Nash—are suffering through injuries, Josh Martin on Bleacher Report suggests that “there’s no time like the present for Dwight Howard to show everyone that he’s indeed the future of the Los Angeles Lakers.”

    It’s no secret that Howard and Bryant have had a tumultuous relationship on and off the court this season, but with Kobe taking more of a backseat role, his ankle injury could give Howard the opportunity to step into the limelight and become a true leader on the Lakers squad.

    Howard should take this opportunity, if only to strengthen his team so that it has the best shot at success in the playoffs. The big man could indeed be the future of the Lakers, but in order to ensure a bright future in Los Angeles, Howard will need to assume a strong leadership role and become more than just a great force under the basket.

If Bryant Can Get Past Injury, the Lakers Have a Shot at Playoff Success

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    Though the Lakers had a rough start to the season, they’ve played well with Bryant on the court, and they could make some noise in the playoffs if Kobe recovers from his ankle injury and leaves the sprain in the past.

    Former NBA forward-center P.J. Brown commented on Bryant’s strength, “He’s like 25 out there. He’s back at school in Philadelphia or something. I don’t know. He’s out there doing it. He’s getting it done.”

    This season, Bryant is averaging 27.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists in 37.9 minutes per game. The Lakers need Bryant healthy and strong if they want to make any sort of impact in the playoffs, so if he recovers and returns, Los Angeles will be very happy.

Yet, Bryant May Need to Watch His Time During the Playoffs

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    Even if Bryant takes the time to fully recover, the fact remains that he’s old, worn out and more injury-prone at age 34 and with 16 years of experience in the NBA. Undoubtedly, the ankle sprain could come back to haunt and nag him during the playoffs and cause him to miss more time.

    This would surely hurt the Lakers’ chances of making it decently far in the postseason. Despite the potential for Dwight Howard to step up as the Lakers’ future and a prominent leader, Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times asserts that “the Lakers are not ready for life without their All-Star guard.”

    And, given his incredible statistics, his dedication to the Lakers and his intensity, Los Angeles probably isn’t ready to move forward without Kobe Bryant either—at least not yet.