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Lakers vs. Spurs Preview: Moving on Without the Mamba

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Without Kobe Bryant, the Lakers march on to San Antonio to face a team whose players may be more familiar to many Lakers fans than the players wearing purple and gold.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Normally in a game against the San Antonio Spurs, the discussions would involve all of the familiar faces on the other sideline in versus how much turnover the Los Angeles Lakers' personnel has undergone. Only Kobe Bryant remains on the team after the numerous playoff battles against San Antonio (Unless you count Jordan Hill from the Lakers' 2013 sweep at the hands of San Antonio in that Dwightmare of a year, which no one does).

But in a situation that Lakers fans will have to adjust to sooner rather than later, the Black Mamba will not be in the lineup for this one, or any games in the near future. While the full extent of Bryant's recovery time is still up in the air until the Lakers' medical staff gets a look at him, what is known is that Bryant tore the rotator cuff in his right shoulder during Wednesday night's loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. With Bryant's contract only running until the end of the '15-16 season, some are even wondering if this was the last time he will suit up for the Lakers. While that seems doubtful, he will definitely not be playing against his old rivals from San Antonio.

This is bad news for the Lakers, who have now lost eight of their last nine games and were looking much better with "Responsible Usage Rate Kobe" than they have otherwise this season. The defending champion Spurs have not played up to their lofty standards this season, but have looked much better since Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard has returned to their lineup. From our very own Drew Garrison's Weekly NBA Power Rankings (Which you all should be reading by the way):

Kawhi Leonard is back in the Spurs' lineup, which means no more excuses for San Antonio's so-so season. Leonard's return has paid immediate dividends, as his on-court offensive rating (117.2) and defensive rating (88.2) show. San Antonio's starting lineup (Tim Duncan, Danny Green, Leonard, Tony Parker, Tiago Splitter) outscored opponents by 15.9 points per 100 possessions in Leonard's two games back, according to NBA.com.

So despite getting blown out by the Bulls last night, the Spurs are still pretty good. The Lakers, as we know, are pretty bad. A notch in the win column is always the goal for the team, but fans should be watching to see how much time rookie guard Jordan Clarkson gets to replace Bryant's minutes, if not his production. Tonight's contest will not bring to mind the Lakers-Spurs playoff battles of yore, but it may be the next step towards drafting a player who will lead the purple and gold back to such heights.

Time: 5:30 p.m. PT

Station: TWCSN