Kobe Bryant’s Return Exposes Irony of His Absence for LA Lakers

I'm sure fans of the Los Angeles Lakers were thrilled by Kobe Bryant's successful return to the lineup on Tuesday night, and were elated by his late game heroics, but the performance of his supporting cast had to be a disappointment.

Therein lies the paradox which surrounds Bryant and his Laker team. The win over the Memphis Grizzlies was great, but the failure of his teammates to display the aggressiveness shown in his absence is puzzling.

It's a disturbing anomaly for a team which played a five-game span defined by rhythm and precision, only to usher in Bryant's return with a game marred by soft defense, confusion on offense, and a feeling of ineptitude.

Things started off well for the Lakers, but in the second quarter they allowed the Grizzlies to draw even, and eventually take a lead they would not surrender until Bryant's shot with 4.3 seconds remaining.

Fans may feel cheated because these were the games they were used to with Bryant in the lineup, but in his absence the Lakers had won every game, save one by double digits.

Bryant was his usual brilliant self, and contrary to popular opinion, he scored his 32 points in the flow of the offense, and he did it in an efficient manner, going 13-19 from the field.

But what about his teammates? Pau Gasol did his part by contributing 22 points and 13 rebounds, but his play lacked the tenacity and intensity which had been prevalent the past two weeks.

I'm not sure if Lamar Odom and Ron Artest made the trip, because there were players on the court wearing jerseys with those names, but they didn't come close to resembling the Artest and Odom of the recent past.

The player disguised as Odom scored five points and a measly three rebounds, while the player masquerading as Artest had an even worse outing, going 1-9 from the field with three points and seven rebounds.

So what happened to the Laker brilliance of the past...

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