When the news of Kobe Bryant’s ruptured Achilles tendon started spreading through social media and the blogosphere, there seemed to be a silent assumption that the chances of the Los Angeles Lakers making the NBA Playoffs by grabbing the eight-seed were finished. After all, Kobe has done so much in leading this team this season and keeping them in this race.
Since the All-Star break, the things that Kobe has done for the Lakers offensively have been nothing short of phenomenal, much less for a 34-year-old in his 17th season. In addition to being their emotional leader, Bryant has also led them by averaging 28.5 points, seven assists and 6.1 rebounds per game on 46 percent shooting since the break. That’s unreal production and efficiency from Bryant.
The conundrum that this raises for L.A. is that they now have to find a player to try and replace the leadership that Kobe brings to this team if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive over these remaining two games in their season. The most likely and best candidate to fill that role for the Lakers is indubitably Dwight Howard.
Howard has been enigmatic at best this season for the Lakers, averaging 16.9 points, 12.3 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game while shooting 58.1 percent from the field. Those are nice numbers, but the problem has really been Dwight’s attitude. You never know whether the engaged and dominant Howard or the passive and indifferent Dwight is going to show up on any given night, which has obviously been problematic.
When Dwight was still content with the Orlando Magic, though, he was the unquestioned leader of that team and led them to several relatively successful runs in the playoffs. He still maintained his jovial personality, but he was engaged in the game and was the best center in the NBA. That’s the player he has to be over these next two games and in the postseason, if the Lakers do indeed make the playoffs.