The 2009 NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers have been finding that out first hand this season, as star shooting guard Kobe Bryant missed the entire fourth quarter of the 105-85 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday.
Bryant was forced to leave in the third quarter with back spasms and did not return, saying after the game that he could barely walk. According to ESPNLosAngeles.com?s Steve Mason via Twitter, Bryant will attempt to play Wednesday night against Dallas even though the Lakers have a 3 1/2 game lead on the Mavericks in the Western Conference.
Bryant?s latest injury (he also broke his index finger on his shooting hand earlier this season) comes at a bad time for the Lakers who are banged up. In addition to Bryant?s back, various members of the team are suffering from a sprained index finger (Ron Artest), bad hamstring (Pau Gasol and Sasha Vujacic), potential head injury (Artest again, and that?s not a head-case joke) and upset stomach (Adam Morrison). Throw in the fact that Luke Walton was forced into action against the Spurs with a bad back, even though he initially said he wouldn?t be available.
One of the few uninjured Lakers is Andrew Bynum, who played in only 85 games the last two seasons due to injury. He has been asked to carry the load inside while Gasol recovers, and, with a potentially slowed Bryant, could be asked to improve upon his 15.5 points-per-game average.
Jordan Farmar, Shannon Brown, DJ Mbenga and Josh Powell are all seeing more time than usual to make up the extra minutes, but as always in the NBA, the importance should be on getting Bryant and Gasol healthy for the playoffs.