Despite D’Antoni’s Arrival, LA Lakers’ Potential Still Hinges on Kobe Bryant

The Los Angeles Lakers could have hired the Dalai Lama, Donald Trump or even Phil Jackson.  They would still be Kobe Bryant's team.

Bryant, while welcoming Dwight Howard this summer, said as much.  Until he leaves or retires and turns the baton over to D12 or whomever it happens to be, Kobe Bean Bryant remains the first, last and final word when it comes to the L.A. Lakers.

And, as good a coach as Mike D'Antoni is—and he's very good—the potential for the Lakers to move deep into the playoffs and possibly win a championship this year rests with No. 24.  Based on his early-season performance, Kobe and the Lakers are headed in the right direction despite a pedestrian 6-6 record.

None other than Magic Johnson did not hesitate when a reporter for the L.A. Times asked him about Bryant and his place in the pecking order.  "Kobe is the leader as of today, and this year, and whenever he's playing, because he's been there, he knows how to win, he knows how to perform in the clutch moments.

"Dwight needs to learn how to do that.  Will it ever be Dwight's team?  Yes, someday it will, but right now this is Kobe's team. Make no mistake about it."

D'Antoni, if he didn't already know, found out quickly during the second quarter of the Lakers' 95-90 win Tuesday over Brooklyn, his first as head coach.  Kobe had just picked up his second foul of the game and D'Antoni sought to bring him out.  Bryant waved off his replacement and kept on playing. 

Kobe was in charge again Wednesday night in Sacramento, only this time the rest of the team did not give him enough support and the Lakers lost a sloppy game to the Kings, 113-97.  Bryant scored 38 points on 11-of-20 shooting and is at 27.3 ppg on 53 percent shooting for the season, an effort worthy of MVP consideration.

D'Antoni knows this is Kobe's team but he also knows the 34-year-old cannot sust...

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