OK, Laker Nation…..take a deep breath. Kobe Bryant will be fine. It’s just a sprain.
I think the scariest part for everybody was how spooked Kobe was when it happened. He later said he thought he might have dislocated his ankle and was relieved when that was not the case. But I can promise you the collective fan base was terrified.
Season ending injury? Yikes!
Say what you want about Kobe, but there is no question that he is tough. Last year, I kept saying to myself, "I can’t believe that we are going to win a championship with this guy playing with one knee, one ankle and nine fingers."
And yet…..it happened.
Phil Jackson even confirmed the seriousness of Kobe’s injuries during the playoffs to the LA Times in an interview that ran over the weekend. They were much more serious than many folks knew.
The Heat were a textbook case of a team in "desperation must win" mode. In their minds, it was like an elimination playoff game. They left everything on the floor. They played like their season was on the line and in a way, it was. Not standings wise, but more in regards to mental toughness.
And the Heat finally acknowledged what I’ve been saying all along: LeBron James is not the leader of that team. Dwyane Wade is. Yup. I said it. A couple of those last minute drives to the basket were unbelievable. Even Kobe gave respect. Chris Bosh stepped up and was a huge contributor. That being said, I think it is still a three-way brawl in the East to go to the Finals.
Haters are going to hate, but I liked Kobe going back out onto the court for an hour and a half after everyone else had left. I know some people will say it was a PR stunt. Maybe. Or maybe Bryant just wanted to erase the bad muscle memory of a sloppy last few game minutes and the missed shots he lofted.
Read into it what you will. At any rate, I’ll take that from the leader of my team over him opting to hit the South Beach nightlife.
We’ll see what happens with Miami. I don’t know why it took them so long to figure out that Wade is the closer on that team and not LeBron. He’s never been clutch.
That was as close to a playoff game as you will see in the regular season. Looking at this loss as glass half full, what should give the Lakers and their fans hope is that in my opinion, they were only at about 85 percent intensity. Miami was at 120 percent. There is no way to escape the fact that Miami was going to put it all on the line.
There is also no way (sorry Kobe) to blame the officiating. Home teams get officiating benevolence all the time. Including you, Lakers. Win in spite of it or pipe down. All that, and the Heat barely won, as ESPN's Bill Simmons so astutely noted in his running diary of the game.
It’ll be interesting to watch what develops for the Heat over the next few games. Especially how James reacts if they continue to give Wade the ball in the late game, must-win situations.
One other thing…..doesn’t Zydrunas Ilgauskas remind you of an evil Russian James Bond villain? Or better yet, that vaguely Russian guy in the DirecTV commercial. “Opulence, I has it.” What if after an awesome dunk, he turned to the surrounding Lakers and screamed that? Shannon Brown would look confused, Kobe would glare and be all, “What the...?” and you just know Pau Gasol would be giggling uncontrollably. It could happen.
But I digress.
In spite of the high profile loss to Miami, the Lakers/Mavericks match up was much more meaningful for the Lakers because it directly affects the standings in the West.
Obviously, the headline after the game against Dallas was, "How is Kobe’s Ankle?". And that is clearly a top concern. But lost in that worry was the fact that the entire Lakers team played a quality game.
I thought they had nice tempo, got contributions from everybody and generally made me feel good about their chances in a seven game series against Dallas if that is how things shake out.
It seems to me like Dallas is just one or two players short of being completely dominant. Of late, we’ve really seen how vital the Lakers' depth is to their season and playoff hopes. And that is definitely going to get tested now if Kobe has to sit for significant minutes.
The Lakers have Orlando tonight. I hope Kobe rests.
The team can do it without him. Maybe even rest him Friday against Minnesota. See how things look next Sunday when Portland comes to town. It is fortunate that the Lakers are home, so Bryant can rest and get treatment without the additional strain of travel.
And maybe this is a blessing in disguise. Weird looking back now at that late night of shooting practice in Miami. Eerie almost. Glad that work got put in then. Who would have guessed it would turn out like this?
Rest up No. 24. The Lakers will be fine the rest of the month. We need you healthy after that.