After Kobe Bryant strained and bruised his foot against the Sacramento Kings on October 21st, the team decided to shut him down for the remainder of the pre-season, which was exactly what you'd expect them to do. But what started as a pre-season formality has developed into a situation serious enough that it may keep Kobe off the floor for the start of the 2012-13 season.
According to the Lakers' official team blog, Bryant was inactive for the sixth straight day on Sunday, which has his status for tomorrow night's season opener against the Dallas Mavericks in doubt. While Mike Brown said that Bryant had been making progress, Pau Gasol seemed a bit ominous about Bryant's status:
"I don’t know; I have my doubts. He hasn’t been able to practice for six days. He’s been off that foot for six days. It’s no joke; I don’t remember the last time he took that many days off. It’s a little concerning."
Kobe has a celebrated history of playing through injuries, so I'm sure many will brush this off as a non-story because he's Kobe Bryant and there's no way he would miss the first game of this new era of Laker basketball. But once you get to thinking about, there is really no reason for Bryant to risk having this issue turn into something that nags him throughout the season and starts to wear in the playoffs. Keep in mind, the Mavericks will be without Dirk tomorrow night, so they will be shorthanded as well.
The Lakers should be able to handle the Mavericks without Kobe (Dwight Howard's first game as a Laker will come against Eddy Curry, by the way) and the same can be said for Wednesday night in Portland. It's obviously not the way we wanted the season to start, but if Bryant hasn't improved substantially by tomorrow, I think the Lakers should err on the side of caution. Isn't one of the added benefits of having such a talented roster that you can survive things like this?
If Bryant does end up missing the season opener, look for Jodie Meeks and Devin Ebanks to get some minutes at the shooting guard spot. Meeks would be a very interesting case study as the starter, since he'd be paired with all three of Los Angeles' top playmakers. Meeks' slick outside shot will force the opposition to make tough decisions when collapsing on the Nash and Howard pick-and-roll and that added offensive element could go along way in helping the Lakers get a win without Kobe.
Of course, I'm sure this will all be moot tomorrow night when Bryant sucks it up and plays. Based on everything we've seen from him in the past, that's what we should all expect. That said, don't be surprised if Bryant is held out for precautionary reasons, because there's no reason to force him to play below 100% this early in the season.