If three consecutive games to start the season weren’t enough, add to the mix that the Lakers host the revamped New York Knicks on Thursday, and a hungry Denver Nuggets team on Saturday. Five games in seven days, and the first four games will be played without the services of starting center Andrew Bynum, due to his scuffle with JJ Barea in last years playoffs. Bynum will be eligible to return against Denver on Saturday. Newly acquired Laker Josh McRoberts will assume the starting Center role until then. The 64th season of Lakers basketball opens up with out familiar faces Lamar Odom and Shannon Brown. Odom was recently traded to the Dallas Mavericks during the preseason, and Brown was dealt to Phoenix.
The Hyperactive schedule will definitely be a test on Kobe and some of the nagging injuries he’s had since last season. Bryant ranks 3rd most games played amongst active players. No one in NBA history has played in more Christmas day games than Kobe (14). He has scored 27,874 points, which is most in Lakers history, most among active players, and is currently 6th on the all-time scoring list. Even with the shortened season, Bryant should pass former teammate Shaquille O’Neal, who is only about 800 points ahead, all-time. Kobe was the youngest player in NBA history to reach 25,000 points.
Bryant played with out hesitation to start the game, was very active and vocal, realizing that with this seasons squad, he’ll have to be as dynamic and effective as he’s been in years. Wearing a compression sleeve on his right arm and no brace on his recently injured wrist, Kobe looked fluid for the most part, knocking down timely jump shots and displayed great footwork. Ligament damage is tough, especially in the shooting wrist, but over the course of the game, the injury never seemed apparent.
Playing through injury Kobe finished with a game high 28 points, adding 7 rebounds, and 6 assists. The Lakers were up 9 points with 2 minutes to go, but missed free throws and untimely turnovers lead to a Derrick Rose hook shot with 4 seconds left. Since 2001 Bryant has hit 19 game-tying or go-ahead FG in the last 5 seconds of the 4th quarter/overtime (Most in NBA) and looked for some more magic, but was denied, as he was triple teamed driving to the basket. The Bulls 7-0 run to close the game deprived the Lakers community of a Christmas day present.
“I saw a lot of positive things,” Bryant said. “Defensively, we were terrific. We did a good job, and we’re just going to get better. We’re going to be very good defensively.”
Look for the Lakers to rebound against the Kings Monday night in Sacramento.
By Alexious Osumenya