Los Angeles Lakers Still Have Time to Salvage Kobe Bryant’s Final Act

Time is a fickle foe of the Los Angeles Lakers, a fast-fleeting villain threatening to marginalize what's left of Kobe Bryant's NBA career, its greatest weapon being hard-hearted impermanence.

That doesn't mean time—along with the ticking clocks and closing windows it brings—cannot be defeated.

In this particular case, time's transience is not indomitable. There is enough of it left for the Lakers to inject additional purpose into Bryant's twilight, however long it's fated to last. Sufficient spending power, star-stuffed free-agent classes and an impending salary-cap boom have given them the means to buy time and (briefly) extend Bryant's championship-chasing shelf life.

No, this path out of obscurity and toward salvation isn't smoothly paved or without its twists and turns and tangents. But there is still a path—the end of which can be reached before it's too late.


Accepting Immediate Fate

The Lakers' immediate outlook is admittedly bleak.

Injuries have reduced the roster to an unpolished entity that depends too heavily on the offensive artistry of a 36-year-old Bryant. He has attempted nearly 29 percent (122) of the Lakers' total shots. When he scores 39 points on 37 field-goal attempts as he did against the Phoenix Suns, it is not solely out of personal preference or stubborn pride, but necessity.

Steve Nash is done for the year (and probably for his career). Julius Randle's rookie campaign ended before it ever truly started. Nick Young, one of the team's best (and the only three-point marksman), is still watching from the sidelines.

Carlos Boozer's defense has been in nonexistent form. Jeremy Lin, despite a pair of offensive explosions against the Los Angeles Clippers and the Suns, is clearly struggling to pilot an offense that is light on weapons and heavy on Bryant. Jordan Hill's rebounding and Ed Davis' overall...

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