Nothin' but Net: Stick a fork in Lakers, but not Kobe

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Philadelphia, PA ( - Kobe Bryant has been sidelined again by a serious leg injury and that leads to questions about the end, both for his Hall of Fame career and the Los Angeles Lakers season.

Let's answer them briefly.

First, no freaking chance at all Bryant goes out like this.

Secondly, no freaking chance on Earth the Lakers make the postseason.

Bryant is not the type of person to leave the sport on crutches. In the game where he suffered a fracture of the lateral tibial plateau in his left knee, a win in Memphis on Tuesday, Bryant played almost seven minutes in the fourth quarter after he thought he hyperextended the knee.

Basically, he played the second half on a broken knee.

"He continued to play until the very end, which again, shows how tough Kobe is, how much he's able to play through and what he's able to play through," said Pau Gasol.

Bryant returned from the Achilles tear and resulting surgery within the appropriate window, maybe a little early. This latest setback is on the same leg. My formal medical training is not in orthopedics, so who knows if the two injuries are intertwined.

"I don't think so," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "There's always a risk until he gets completely used to playing, but the doctors are all over it. That's just bad luck."

D'Antoni isn't a doctor either. If the injuries have anything at all to do with each other, it's most likely not going to end there. Also, remember Bryant has been to Germany more often than Hasselhoff to spin his own blood in an effort to aid his knees.

At 35, Bryant has another significant rehab ahead of him. Maybe, he can take a little more time this go around, which coincides with the second question. Whether or not Bryant returns in six weeks or 10, the Lakers are going nowhere this season.

I'll never support the logic of shutting someone down for the rest of the season for a six-week injury. If Bryant feels it's worse than the original diagnosis, which could very well be possible, maybe the Lakers make him a spectator for the season.

But Bryant is tireless and fearless. He will do everything humanly possible to return, but needs to appreciate reality.

At .500 before Kobe's first return, the Lakers weren't in the playoff hunt.

Not playing any better with him in the lineup, L.A. didn't enhance its postseason chances.

Six weeks without Bryant surely won't improve their positioning in the loaded Western Conference.

The Lakers have no one on their roster currently who can play point guard. Steve Nash is out another month. Steve Blake is gone for a month and Jordan Farmer at least a week. Bryant was the point guard lately and on Friday, Xavier Henry will most likely be the lead man. He has 92 assists in 158 games.

Gasol has been un-Pau since D'Antoni took over. Lately, the two are bickering in public like a couple of Real Housewives.

This is a perfect chance for the Lakers to try and improve their situation past this season, a situation that frankly, needs a lot of improvement.

The Lakers have Bryant signed for two more years at $48 million. Wish you had that one to do over, Mr. Buss? As much money as that is, maybe the Lakers brass should've gotten a peek at the goods before they staked their future on Bryant's now twice-injured leg.

Bryant, Nash, Robert Sacre and Nick Young (player option) are the only players the Lakers have under contract next season. That's not a great nucleus, not in 2014 anyway.

The plan all along has been to encourage LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony to go west. Maybe, a backup plan should be in place somewhere.

The Lakers need a youth infusion. Have you heard about the 2014 NBA Draft class?

If Bryant takes the slow path to a return, or elects to not return this season, the Lakers will lose some games and improve their situation in the lottery.

It's tanking, but not really tanking.

That leaves one last major decision - do the Lakers trade Gasol, who is a free-agent in the offseason?

The last two seasons under D'Antoni have brought career-lows in scoring and field-goal percentage. D'Antoni hasn't figured out to maximize Gasol's talents and Gasol hasn't figured out how to keep quiet about that fact.

Here are the options:

1. Sign Gasol to a long-term deal. Pass.

2. Trade Gasol for long-term pieces. Doubtful any team would give you young assets or picks for a player on the decline.

3. Trade Gasol for another team's Gasol. Possible, but do the Lakers want Carlos Boozer for a few more years?

4. Trade Gasol for garbage. Unlikely, but more realistic. If they get three unnecessary pieces for Gasol, how does that help? Sure, you get money if you don't keep any of the players around, but it'd be the same as keeping Gasol.

5. Sign Gasol to a cap-friendlier deal in the offseason. Interesting, since the Spaniard isn't probably going to command a big contract.

6. Keep him and let him walk. And maybe wait to spend money until next offseason if James or Anthony doesn't bite.

The Lakers took Gasol off the market, but that was before Bryant went down again. Who knows now, but the Lakers are not an organization that seems alright with tanking.

And if Bryant does return, tanking will not happen. He won't allow it.

There are silver linings in every situation. Bryant's injury can accelerate the Lakers semi-rebuilding process and actually help what looked to be a dire situation.


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