In my last post, I said that Christmas came early for Laker fans when Kobe Bryant announced his return for the December 8 tilt with the Toronto Raptors.
Unfortunately for Laker fans, Christmas is cancelled. Maybe that’s a tad overdramatic, but on Thursday, the Lakers announced that Bryant suffered a fractured tibia in Tuesday night’s win over the Memphis Grizzlies, which will sideline Bryant for about six weeks.
The injury likely occurred in the third quarter, when Bryant’s knee seemingly gave out while he was posting up Memphis guard Tony Allen. In true Bryant fashion, he finished out the game, scoring 21 points en route to the Lakers’ six point victory. They won the battle, but lost the war two days later when tests revealed that Bryant’s injury was more severe than anticipated.
This news came on the heels of news that Jordan Farmar would miss at least another week with a torn hamstring. With the two Steve’s (Nash and Blake) being sidelined with their own respective injuries, Mike D’Antoni announced that Xavier Henry will press his luck as the next Laker point guard. As their fifth point guard in 25 games, how long will Henry stay healthy.
The timing could not be worse for the Lakers, as they face point guards Ricky Rubio, Steph Curry and Eric Bledsoe in their next three contests, before LeBron James and the Miami Heat come to town.
Things are not looking good for the Lakers, who despite a plethora of injuries and one of the harder schedules so far this season, sit at 12-13 on the season, 2.5 games behind the Denver Nuggets for the 8th seed in the West.
There are many differing opinions on whether the Lakers should shoot for the playoffs or try to get a lottery pick. The Lakers haven’t actually drafted a player in the first round since they took Javaris Crittenton with the 19th pick in the 2007 draft, and 2014 offers one of the more talented draft classes in recent memories.
As Herm Edwards infamously said in a post-game press conference, “You play to win the game”. Even from the sidelines, Bryant will death-glare any player on the court that isn’t giving it 110 percent, so tanking is nearly out of the question.
Despite their desire to win, this Laker team may not have enough talent and consistency to make the playoffs.
If Pau Gasol keeps playing the way he was playing with Bryant in the lineup and guys like Wes Johnson and Shawne Williams don’t regress too much, the Lakers could still sneak into the playoffs.
Missing out on the playoffs wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for the Lakers, who would have a better shot at a higher draft pick and would save Bryant from having to play in at least four more games. A full summer of conditioning for Bryant paired with a good draft pick and the right additions in free agency could find the Lakers in the hunt for a higher playoff seed next year.
If the Lakers don’t want to tank and want to try to salvage 2013, their options are extremely limited in terms of improving the team. If they want to keep financial flexibility for the offseason, trading expiring contracts for better talent/longer contracts would not be the best move.
They signed Kendall Marshall, a second year point guard who was drafted 13th overall by Phoenix. Marshall is seemingly perfect for this Laker team – a promising young player picked high in the draft that didn’t live up to his expectations, much like Wes Johnson and Jordan Hill. If he can break out in a similar fashion as those two, the Lakers could have a low-risk high reward payout.
There are just not many ways for the Lakers to improve their team this season. Sometimes, you have to know when to fold them. The mess of injuries sustained by the Lakers this season might be a sign that 2013 is definitely not their year.
Of course, I could be completely wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time. Marshall could break out and become the stud that many thought he would be out of North Carolina. Farmar could come back in a week and run the point efficiently, making everyone around him better. His defense could propel the Lakers and they could get healthy at just the right time, and maybe even make a playoff run.
Crazier things have happened. Laker fans just have to hope for this Christmas Miracle.
This was an article by Alex Campos. You can follow him on Twitter here: @ac3581