Kobe, Lakers rested and ready to battle Wizards

March 22, 2013

The Lakers have had their ups and downs all season, with winning streaks, losing streaks, injuries, and coaching changes. But this week they’ve had something that they’ve seldom had all season long. Something that they’ve desperately needed.


The Lakers have had three days off this week, and with both Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol injured, and the team entering the home stretch of its playoff hunt, the time off couldn’t have come at a better time.

This is nothing new for the Lakers, as their season up to this point has been marred by a slew of injuries, causing the team's four superstars to miss a significant amount of playing time.

First Steve Nash went down for 26 games. Then Dwight Howard. Then Gasol. Then Dwight again. Then Gasol again. For good measure, even role players Steve Blake and Jordan Hill took their hits.

And yet, given these consistently unfavorable circumstances, at this point in the season they have faired relatively well. They’re in the playoffs at the moment, and have bounced back better than most expected from their putrid first 50 or so games.

Thankfully LA has had the magic of Kobe, who has single-handedly been responsible for much their post-All-Star break success.

So when Kobe went down a week ago in Atlanta, it was more than just another injury. After all, he was the one who had carried them through the string of injuries thus far.

But if anything has been a constant for the Lakers this season, it’s been their inconsistency. They have been unpredictable night in and night out with the injuries to their stars.

They were just as unpredictable with the injury to Kobe, but in a surprisingly good way.

LA won at Indiana against a quality Pacers team, and then won at home against Sacramento. They lost the very next night in Phoenix, but it was the second night of a back-to-back, a scenario that they have struggled with all season long.

Perhaps Kobe’s injury has been a blessing in disguise, as his absence gave greater impetus for role players to contribute.

Such was the case in their two victories, as both games were won with the right blend of playmaking, three-point shooting, and improved play from Dwight Howard. Steve Blake and Antawn Jamison looked unusually confident and were especially productive, knocking down a flurry of timely threes in both victories.

Meanwhile, Howard is looking healthier than he’s been all season, and seemingly is finally getting his legs under him.

They looked like guys that were genuinely playing for each other, and it was perhaps a result of not having Kobe. That’s not to say that Kobe destroys the offense, but rather, his absence puts the burden on the rest of the Lakers to compensate for his scoring prowess.

The team's new challenge now becomes maintaining chemistry with the addition of Pau and Kobe, as both are expected to return to the lineup Friday night against the Wizards.

In an interview with another media outlet this week, Antawn Jamison let on how Kobe is doing his part as a teammate, and just how much he wants to make it work with this group of guys.

"Kobe will tell you," Jamison said, "'Look, you guys as my teammates, yell at me. Let me know that you’re open because I’m so programmed…I see nothing but that basket. You could be open, there could be three guys on me, but the only thing I see is that basket so you have to tell me, Look, I was open. Or yell at me mid-play. That doesn’t affect me at all and I respect that.'"

Say what you want about him being a ballhog, being selfish, being stubborn, and ultimately being in it for his own personal glory. Even though his assist numbers are up this season, his stats alone won’t silence all of the typical criticisms that have characterized Kobe Bryant at this point. But with a roster full of talent that is finally getting back to full strength, and the playoffs now within reach, one thing has become crystal clear:

Both on and off the court, Kobe is really trying his best to make this work.

Given his the time off this week, Kobe took the opportunity to hold a press conference at the West London Hotel in West Hollywood to announce his new partnership with the Hublot watch brand. Hublot is an upscale watch company that has other celebrity endorsers such as Dwyane Wade and Usain Bolt.

Hublot is launching a Kobe-themed signature timepiece called the King Power Black Mamba, a limited edition watch featuring a snake and the number 24 on the clock.

By Max Rucker
Contributing Writer for TheDailySportsHerald.com

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