Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant tore a ligament in his wrist against the Los Angeles Clippers in in the third quarter Monday night, and while Bryant will certainly miss tonight's game with the Clippers, his official status is listed as day-to-day.
The injury doesn't appear to be serious, so Lakers fans shouldn't push the panic button right away. But there is reason for concern because Bryant's injury is the type that tends to linger, which could be a problem down the road.
That's especially true when you consider the set of daunting obstacles the Lakers must overcome if they really hope to return to the NBA Finals at the conclusion of the 2011-12 regular season.
Not only are the Lakers breaking in a new head coach in Mike Brown, but the shortened 66-game regular season could negatively affect the team's older roster, and they open the season with three games on consecutive nights.
Factor in center Andrew Bynum's five-game suspension to start the season—resulting from senseless antics in last year's playoffs—and the surprise departure of Lamar Odom, and you get a Lakers team that could realistically get off to a pretty bad start, even with a healthy Bryant.
There are several other things that could turn bad to worse pretty quickly.
The Chris Paul trade debacle may now be a footnote in Lakers history, but if you hadn't noticed the team has yet to resolve its situation at point guard.
Longtime starter Derek Fisher may still have some magic left at the end of his fingertips, but he doesn't have any quickness in his feet, and while Fisher is still one of the league's strongest and more physical point guards, those attributes are nullified when your opponent constantly blows by you off the dribble.
There is some hope that Steve Blake can find his game outside of the triangle offense, but is there anyone who believes that Blake can consistently defend the West's elite lead guards?
I sure don't, and I'm not really sure how forward Pau Gasol and Bynum will perform with the threat of a trade constantly looming over their heads either.
If the Lakers have any shot at reaching the NBA Finals, they will need Gasol and Bynum to be aggressive, dominant and focused in the paint. As former Lakers great Magic Johnson said in a conference call to reporters, they would probably need to play the best season of their careers.
But ESPN's coverage of Magic's conference call was made before Bryant's injury was diagnosed.
Bryant's injury changes the whole dynamic of a team that is already dealing with the transition to a new environment under Brown, and again, the worse thing is there is a possibility that Bryant's wrist could bother him and linger all season.
Bryant is no stranger to nagging injuries, and his decision to play through pain leaves no question about his toughness, but the Lakers may not reach the finals if Bryant does not make a full recovery in two weeks.
It's scary to think how bad it could be for the Lakers if Bryant's wrist restricts his game all season long.