How Will the Lakers Cope Without Kobe?

Dylan Pulver

Complete silence. That was all everyone in the basketball universe could offer at the sight of Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant going down with a torn Achilles tendon during the Lakers’ recent game against the Golden State Warriors. Bryant is the type of warrior who refused to take time off with a nagging wrist, ankle problems or a broken nose suffered in last year’s NBA All-Star Game, even in his 17th year playing professional basketball. He also made a promise that the once-miserable 2012-2013 Lakers would make the NBA Playoffs with the help of his stellar performances. Kobe has played over 40 minutes in each of the Lakers’ games, including the game against Golden State. To the disbelief of all of his fans, teammates and peers in the NBA, he was unable to play the rest of the game against the Warriors, and is out for the rest of the season.

Many people throughout the league, both within the Lakers organization and outside, have expressed their regards and hope for Kobe.

Right after the Warriors game, Lakers center Dwight Howard said, “It’s sad to see him go down like this. He works so hard just to play. I could just see it in his face. When you injure yourself to the point where you can’t play, it hurts. It’s a deep hurt.”

Both Jeremy Lin and James Harden of the Houston Rockets, whom Kobe would have played against in the Lakers’ final game of the regular season, expressed their thoughts on Kobe and the injury, as well.

Lin felt “terrible” for Kobe and said, “He really did give everything he could to the team, to the organization, to the city” and “that’s like the worst way to

go out.”

Harden, meanwhile, thinks “it’s sad” and is “hoping he recovers.” Even LeBron James, one of Kobe’s biggest rivals for the past half decade or so, tweeted about Kobe in a optimistic light: “If there’s anybody and I mean anybody who can come back from that injury it would

be [Kobe]!”

Kobe’s injury will undoubtedly affect the Lakers for the rest of this season and next year. For this season, if the Lakers manage to maintain their lead over the Utah Jazz and make the playoffs, Dwight Howard will have to assume the leadership role he always wanted. Also, Paul Gasol will have to do whatever is asked of him, whether it is scoring, rebounding or assisting, while Steve Nash will have to return and play effectively. All of the Lakers’ role players will have to step up and play beyond what was originally expected of them. The main question, though, concerns the Lakers and Kobe’s future. Kobe’s current timetable to return to the court is six to nine months, which, with no setbacks, would bring Kobe back before next season at earliest, and by the middle of next season at latest. Of course, even if he is half the player he was, Kobe will want to return. But, are the Lakers willing to pay a considerable amount of tax money from Kobe’s $30 million salary for possibly half a season of a depleted Kobe? There has been some talk of the Lakers using their one-time Amnesty provision on the now-injured Kobe in order to save some money, and then re-sign him in the summer of 2014 when he is fully healthy. However, there are many people who believe that this would be the wrong move, and completely disrespectful to possibly the greatest Laker ever.

Another issue at hand is how this injury will affect how Kobe’s career is viewed overall. Of course, it would be sad for any player of this caliber to quit after an injury, but can Kobe accomplish much more, especially if he cannot play at the same level he has been recently? Kobe’s competitive spirit and determination would make anyone figure that he will probably play out next season and the season after as the secondary man to Dwight Howard on the Lakers – if Dwight even stays with the Lakers during this offseason. Assuming Kobe returns, there is almost no chance he will shun the rest of his career. Instead, he will most likely make an

effort to continue his success.

No matter what happens with Kobe Bryant’s future, his warrior heart will never be forgotten. In one of the most vulnerable moments of Kobe’s 17-year career, instead of searching for help right away and completely giving into the injury, Kobe walked to the Lakers’ bench for a timeout. Then he walked, albeit slowly, to the free throw line, made two free throws to tie the game and walked, this time with help, to the Lakers’ locker room with the crowd giving him a standing ovation at the same time. All the while, Kobe was enduring the pain of a torn Achilles tendon. Lakers Vice President of Player Personnel Jim Buss was one of the many Lakers staff members who became very emotional as Kobe went to the line.

Buss said, “[It] made me cry watching him, the Great Warrior, walk to the free throw line and, of course, make both [free throws] to keep us in the ball game. To me, one of the greatest moments in sports.”

Even after Bryant sustained this major injury, his perserverance on the court is a testament to his strength as a player.

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