Three, this team is crazy deep. Even with last night’s loss at Boston, the Lakers are getting productive minutes from nearly every player on the roster. I’m beginning to think Mitch Kupchack has assembled the greatest collection of talent this town has seen since they filmed The Outsiders in 1983.
Four, and most importantly, it’s now glaringly obvious that before Kobe decided to rest, the Lakers were over reliant on the Mamba. It got to the point where I flashed back to 2005 to 2007 when Kobe needed to drop 40 for the Lakers to win, only now he’s too old to be doing all the heavy lifting.
When Pau Gasol started the season on the injured reserve, Kobe sent a clear message to the team: “Get on my back and let’s go to work.” He opened the season on a tear: shooting well, picking his spots, putting up points and simply dominating games. Make no mistake, Kobe was the MVP of the league during the first 25% of the season.
The trouble was, when Pau was back in the lineup Kobe never scaled his play back. He kept pushing the pedal to the metal and it wound up draining his body. One injury after another piled up until before you knew it, Kobe was a shell of the player he was at the beginning of the season. When Kobe finally decided to sit out, the rest of the team had the perfect opportunity to show him they were pretty good too.
The Lakers’ performance in Kobe’s absence has been commendable, and I’d argue it’s the best thing that could have happened to this team. Kobe got to see that his teammates are more than capable of holding the fort down in his absence, and the rest of the team got a taste of what it’s like to play a close game against a Championship contender without their superstar.
So what have we really learned? Two things: the Lakers need Kobe, and Kobe needs the Lakers. Having just experienced a taste of life apart, I think everyone is ready to march to The Finals as a single unit.
That’s great news for Lakers Nation, and not so good news for the rest of the league.