Thank goodness we have Mike Brown to clear these things up.
Here we all were, reading news about Kobe Bryant's strained right foot, when
the Lakers coach clarified just what is the issue that has kept Bryant out of
practice for six days.
"It's a medical issue," Brown told reporters on Sunday.
Ah, thanks Coach.
Bryant's gimpy foot is not the only "medical
issue" the Lakers have to contend with this season. Being old is also a
"medical issue," and it is one nobody ever recovers from. For all the
talk last season about the Celtics' age, the Lakers have built their team for
the upcoming season on an even more worrisome combination of aging veterans and ailing
stars. It is their one weakness, but it could keep them from winning the championship everyone assumes they will win.
This is the issue that some NBA observers just cannot get
past when evaluating the upcoming season. The star-studded lineup
appears to make Los Angeles the clear favorite for the 2013 NBA title,
but Bryant and Dwight Howard are far from 100 percent, Steve Nash will be 39
years old when the playoffs open and Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace have more
mileage on their legs than their 32-year-old ages suggest.
There appears to be a feeling in L.A. that Bryant missing
Tuesday's season opener against the Mavericks is a very realistic possibility. If so, it would fulfill many people's prediction that the Lakers would begin the
season without one of their All-Star starters — although most folks assumed
that would be Howard. In that case, this may be more than a one- or two-game blip before
the Lakers' stud lineup comes together to dominate the league. Howard's back
and Bryant's foot/wrist/knee will have to be watched throughout the season, and
every halfway reliable player on the roster (save Howard and maybe Jodie Meeks) celebrated his 30th birthday years ago.
The Lakers are not dead, of course. General manager Mitch Kupchak
clearly understood when he made his moves that his team would need a bit of
health-related luck, more so than most fellow contenders, to fulfill
expectations. The Howard trade in fact may have made the Lakers less
susceptible to losing games due to injuries at the five spot, since Howard has
been far more durable over the course of his NBA career than Andrew Bynum. The
Thunder helped out as well by dealing sixth man James Harden and dropping
themselves below L.A. in the Western Conference hierarchy in the process.
Worrying whether a veritable All-NBA team can stay healthy is a headache most
coaches envy Brown for having.
Age and injuries did not prevent the Mavs from winning the
title two years ago, and they did not keep the Celtics from making it to the
Eastern Conference Finals last year. (Those factors did contribute to keeping
the Celtics out of the Finals, though.) The Lakers are the unadulterated
favorite in the West, but the disparity is not as great as many fans seem to assume. Father
Time and the physical limitations of the human body will make sure of that, as
Bryant's uncertain condition reaffirms.
Photo via Facebook/Kobe Bryant – Our Legend