In a loss to the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday night, Kobe Bryant took an awkward fall with three seconds to go in the game as he attempted to send it into overtime. Dahntay Jones was defending on the play, and Bryant adamantly pleaded afterwards that there should have been a foul called on Jones.
Later, Jones responded via Twitter by saying that he would never intentionally hurt a player and that the tape doesn’t lie. When asked about the severity of the injury, Bryant said that it’s the worst pain he’s felt in his ankle since 2000. He is officially listed as “out indefinitely.”
Having gone 17-8 in their past 25 games, the Los Angeles Lakers could be in serious trouble without Bryant.
In this impressive stretch, it has been Bryant who has carried the load offensively. Putting up a handful of 40 point games along with several assists sprinkled in throughout the stretch, he has literally been willing these Lakers to victories. If the Lakers aren’t careful about their game plan going into an “indefinite” period of time without their five-time champion, they could find themselves ultimately coming up short of the playoffs.
The most important player to this squad from here on out is none other than outspoken center Dwight Howard. If the Lakers want any shot at playoff berth, Howard is going to have to consistently play like the guy L.A. thought they were getting last summer.
Without another guy that can take control of a game offensively, Howard is going to have to command that defense as well as he ever has. Reverting back to the former NBA Defensive Player of the Year would not be a bad idea at this point. I am not necessarily even referring to stats — I’m talking about being the guy that people are afraid to drive on because they simply cannot score.
If the Lakers can first come up with defensive stops that lead to fast-break opportunities with point guard Steve Nash, I will give them a shot to surviving without Kobe. That may be one giant “if” though, as Howard has lacked consistency all season when it comes to asserting himself on both ends of the court, as well as being a media hog off the court with many controversial comments.
My advice to the big man: Shut up and focus on winning basketball games.