Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who is still rehabbing from Achilles surgery in April, has stated in recent interviews that he is uncertain over his status for the season opener on Oct. 29 against the Los Angeles Clippers.
It is not to say that the 17-year veteran will not do everything in his power to make a return on opening night but if he were to miss any period of time his absence would leave a huge void on the team. So without further ado here are three players who will need to step up if Bryant does indeed miss any playing time:
1. Pau Gasol
The 7-foot Spaniard since his arrival to the Lakers during the 2007-08 season has been one of the team’s most consistent and top scoring options. Gasol will also be coming into this season where he will have plenty of room to work in the post with Dwight Howard now gone and will also be a central focus in the team’s offense heading forward.
So with possibility that Bryant may miss time, it would not be too much of a burden on the 33-year-old to shoulder the load as the team’s No. 1 scoring option with Bryant out.
Do not forget that during his six and half year with the Memphis Grizzles, Gasol for much of that time was his team’s primary scoring option. He has had that pressure on him before and has proven he can handle it. The bottom is that when his team needs an offensive output from him, he has provided it and this time will not be any different.
2. Steve Nash
If Bryant does miss time, Nash would be the Lakers’ primary ball handler and become more of an orchestrator of the offense. Last season, when Nash and Bryant played together they both held the responsibility of being the team’s main ball handlers and distributors. If the former two-time MVP were to be placed in this role, it would be familiar territory for him as the offense ran through him during his time with the Phoenix Suns.
Another area that he will pick up for Bryant is his leadership. Nash is a proven leader and can be the calming voice in high-pressure situations but the one part of his game that will be most relied upon is his passing ability. In first year with the Lakers, Nash did not meet up to the consistent high standards he has set for himself over his years league but with one season under his belt the organization he should have a good familiarity with his teammates and comfort in his new settings.
Nash will have the responsibility to run the team’s offense, dish out assists and fill in the void of leadership that Bryant will leave with him not the court if he is not ready for the beginning of the season.
3. Nick Young
The one area that Young can help the Lakers in if Bryant is not ready go for the start of the regular season is scoring. Over his six years in the league, the 28-year-0ld has proven that he has a knack for scoring when given reasonable playing time. He displayed this in his last two and half seasons (2010-12) with the Washington Wizards where he averaged 16.1 points in 30.o minutes per game.
Young does not lack confidence so he will certainly accept the larger scorer responsibility if Bryant misses time. What Young ultimately provides the Lakers is a player who can become the fill-in scorer with Bryant out because of his offensive ability. He has the ability to create his own shot and at times can become a streaky shooter. He gives Los Angeles is a much needed scoring option that the team can rely on.
Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Bob Garcia IV
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