OKLAHOMA CITY, April 20, 2012 — Kobe Bryant’s shin has caused him to miss the last seven games, but while he was out something happened. The Lakers went 5-2 without him and looked almost like a better team with Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol leading the way. Reports say Bryant could be back Friday to take on the Spurs. Is this good or bad?
Having one of the greatest players of all time in your lineup should never be a bad thing, but this could go one of two ways. Either Bryant sees what his team was able to do without him and the shot-happy guard will start to defer a little to his big men or Bryant will notice how well they were playing and how much better they will be with him.
At times in the mad dash of a season, the Lakers have been a mess. Bynum was taking three-pointers, Bryant got benched in the fourth quarter, and Metta World Peace was, well, Metta World Peace.
But while Bryant sat out injured, Bynum had 30 rebounds against the Spurs and World Peace looked like Ron Artest.
Bryant happily sat on the bench in a gorgeous tailored suit smiling. Smiling? Bryant never smiles.
At times during the games, Bryant was even coaching his teammates, picking up a dry erase board and drawing up plays. Most pundits marveled at this. But to anyone that watched the awful Spike Lee documentary “Doin’ Work” will remember that Bryant coaches his teammates the entire game. In the movie, he is constantly in their ears, giving them direction and telling them what to do. Interestingly, it looked like the players tuned him out. So this might not be that much of a revelation.
Bryant and the Lakers have been somewhat surprising this year. They currently are the third seed in the West. Bryant looks like he will be the scoring champ and Metta World Peace is still being Metta World Peace. Many thought the Lakers didn’t have a chance this year in the playoffs, but now that we have seen what this team is capable of without Bryant they might be a contender.
Could the emergence of Bynum lead to a new Shaq/Kobe like feud? Either Bryant learned from that relationship and knows that having a dominant center can help him win championships or if Bryant doesn’t defer as much to Bynum as the center wants him too, there could be problems.
Bynum’s biggest issue has been maturity. You have a young player that thinks he’s better than the older, better player thinks he is. Then the relationship could go south. Sound familiar?
Bryant’s got fuel left in the tank, but how much we don’t know. In order for the Lakers to go deep in the playoffs he may have to play more through his big men instead of doing it all himself.
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