Kobe, Lakers Success Down the Stretch Hinges on Confidence

With a confident Kobe Bryant leading the charge, the Los Angeles Lakers might just enough have enough time left to cash in on the overwhelming potential that greeted the franchise on opening night.

If they can channel the confidence of their MVP leader, the Lakers can contend with any potential playoff foe. That tantalizing potential from this roster hasn't gone anywhere. And neither has the overwhelming, star-studded talent.

As the stage grows, so too does Bryant's bravado. It's what makes him such a lethal late-game assassin, capable of extending or finishing a series with a transcendent performance.


Borderline Arrogance

 They were crowned champions of the Western Conference long before the 2012-13 NBA season got started. When general manager Mitch Kupchak returned from his offseason free-agent hunt carrying Dwight Howard and Steve Nash like a pair of trophy bucks, basketball analysts had seen all that they needed to see.

The conference race was theirs. Starting forward Metta World Peace raised the bar, telling ESPN Radio's Max Kellerman and Marcellus Wiley (transcribed by Chris Fedor of SportsRadioInterviews.com) that the team had set its sights on a would-be record 73 regular-season wins.

Regardless of the coach (then Mike Brown), the system (Brown's take on the Princeton offense) and the supporting cast (a collection largely compiled of past-their-prime veterans and young, unproven players), there was no way a team featuring Howard, Nash, Bryant and Pau Gasol could ever fail, right?

Well, not exactly.

It took all of five regular-season games (four of them Lakers losses) for Brown to convince Lakers management that he wasn't the right man for the job. That fleeting experiment with the Princeton offense followed him out the door.

With a rash of injuries to key rotation players (including Howard, Nash and Gasol), th...

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