The Los Angeles Lakers are no longer built to suit Kobe Bryant exclusively. This is what head coach Mike Brown worked on early in the season and the plan is paying dividends as the season comes to a close. Kobe Bryant has missed five games this season and the Lakers are now 4-1 without their legendary leader.
Does this mean the Lakers are a better team without Bryant? No, but without Bryant, the Lakers are playing better as a cohesive team. It has long been an issue with the Lakers and Kobe Bryant: When Kobe plays at his best, his teammates tend to back off and let him do his magic.
Sometimes it appears the Lakers are mesmerized by Kobe's exploits and at other times it looks like they are waiting for Bryant to take control of the game. Without Kobe the team plays at another level as a team and their opponents are at a loss when it comes to drawing up a game plan to stop the Kobe-less Lakers.
Andrew Bynum, who has struggled his entire career with maturity issues, buckles down with Kobe on the bench and he plays at another level. The same is true of Pau Gasol. Gasol is a follower, not a leader but with Kobe out of commisson, Gasol takes up the loose slack and produces.
Mike Brown, much-maligned by many Lakers followers, including myself, has played this strike-shortened season perfectly. He has gotten the most out of his veterans and now with Kobe in need of some down-time he has this team playing exactly the way he wants.
Many felt the loss of Derek Fisher as a team leader would hurt the Lakers but with Fisher gone it has allowed the Lakers to develop a new personality. Without Fisher this is a younger team and now new leaders are stepping up with the departure of Fisher.
Many Lakers fans had trouble dealing with Fisher's exit but in the end it may give the Lakers the boost they need to make a run to the NBA Finals. Is it too much to ask of this Lakers team to make the NBA Finals? With Kobe Bryant injured and Derek Fisher gone, many experts are looking past the Lakers but no one in the Western Conference is taking the Lakers lightly.
Don't be surprised if the Lakers win the Western Conference playoffs this season and once again appear in the NBA Finals. This team is not built on three big superstars like the Miami Heat but the Lakers play as a team and that is why they will make a deep run into the NBA playoffs. Count on it.
*Todd Jacobs is a native Southern California resident and longtime Los Angeles Lakers fan who has followed the Lakers since the late '70s.
ABC Sports: Dallas Mavericks vs Los Angeles Lakers telecast April 15, 2012
- Sports & Recreation
- Kobe Bryant
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Derek Fisher