Los Angeles Lakers Will Still Only Go as Far as Kobe Bryant Can Take Them

LOS ANGELES — The bad: The Los Angeles Lakers lost two home games to nondescript opponents upon Kobe Bryant’s heralded arrival.

The demoralizing: They didn’t just lose, they completely lost that winning feeling. Now they’re on the road for the next four games, starting in Oklahoma City on Friday night.

How rough were the past two for the Lakers at Staples Center? At no time during Bryant’s return game against the Toronto Raptors did the Lakers hold the lead. In their follow-up against the Phoenix Suns, the Lakers led for all of 40 seconds—as long as Steve Blake’s opening three-pointer held up.

That’s not a fun or confidence-building way to spend your first two nights with the guy who Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni acknowledged was potentially viewed as “our savior,” particularly after building a winning record without him.

Still, let’s put that winning record into some context.

Going 10-9 was something the Lakers were proud of and earned through the old-school tenets of effort and teamwork. It’s logical now for doubt to creep in as to all that good stuff the Lakers are shuffling away to accommodate a clearly ground-bound Bryant.

(Yes, he did dunk in Game 2, but it really wasn’t that much more authoritative than the “strong layup” he joked about flushing with his left hand in practice. Another time, he had a clear path down the lane Tuesday night, and he just flipped the ball up for a basket.)

But as we evaluate this awkward time for the Lakers, please step back and view it reasonably.

This is like the Lakers breaking up with a really nice girl who wasn’t going to deliver the best marriage. The Lakers need Bryant’s talent, plus that sweet chemistry, if they hope to shock the world instead of overachieving for some pleasantly non-horrible season. There i...

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