Caught in the Web: Capturing reaction to Kobe Bryant
Should he play or should he rest?
That's the question most people -- reporters and readers of the Lakers Blog -- debated back and forth as Bryant continued to struggle with the month-old fracture of his right index finger. Bryant may have shown near invincibility by managing to stay on the court. But he showed vulnerability as his finger worsened, shooting 37 of 111 (33%) in a four-game stretch. Bryant then suffered back spasms that made him miss the entire fourth quarter in Tuesday's loss at San Antonio.
In the meantime, the Lakers weren't forging an identity themselves. Pau Gasol had been/is out with a sore left hamstring. Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom had a mixed track record in filling Gasol's void. Ron Artest hadn't been totally comfortable since the Christmas night concussion. Derek Fisher continued his poor shooting. And the bench didn't always provide secondary scoring.
That left Bryant thinking any individual discomfort will just have to be tolerated as he tries to carry the team. Nonetheless, Mamba's situation raised legitimate concerns, ESPN's J.A. Adande and ESPN Los Angeles' Brian Kamenetzky among them, that Bryant's refusal to sit out could actually hurt the team.
After the Lakers' win against the Bucks on Sunday, one reporter asked Bryant whether it's crazy to suggest he take a few games off.
"Probably," Bryant said.
Instead, he took the normal route, waking up at 5 a.m. Wednesday morning to receive four-hour treatment for his back so he could suit up for that night's game against the Dallas Mavericks. Despite an awful first half of zero points and one shot, Bryant lay down for the entire second quarter along the sideline on comfortable padding. In the second half, he scored 10 points, including the game-winning shot in the Lakers' 100-95 victory.
The Orange County Register's Kevin Ding argues that Bryant's refusal to rest should serve as a positive message to teammates, opponents and fans alike about the necessity in finding a way. After Mamba laced into his teammates for being overly reliant on him, the Lakers answered the call. In return, Bryant netted his fourth game-winning shot of the season.
More Lakers links (after the jump)
-- Silver Screen and Roll considers the Lakers' victory against the Mavericks as the best win of the season. The Lakers have a league-leading 30-9 record and defeated Dallas, the West's second in command, and Forum Blue and Gold thinks no one in the Western Conference will be able to challenge the Lakers.
-- NBA.com's Fran Blinebury thinks otherwise. He says the losses to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Clippers, Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs reveal the Lakers' vulnerability.
-- Bryant isn't the only player to fight through injuries. It's been six games since Artest returned to the lineup after missing five games because of a Christmas night concussion. He asked out of Sunday's game against the Bucks after a fall. And he suffered an injury to his right index finger Tuesday against San Antonio. That didn't stop him from putting together a 16-point, 11-rebound clip against Dallas, a performance The Times' Broderick Turner wrote was "one of his best efforts of the season."
--Odom aggravated the sprained right index and middle fingers he injured against Phoenix last month, but that didn't stop him from being aggressive. Lakers Coach Phil Jackson chided him publicly for his passiveness, and Odom answered with 18 points, 14 rebounds and a season-high 20 shots. Odom told the Riverside Press Enterprise's Jeff Eisenberg that Jackson's criticism is the "same thing they've been telling me for the last four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 years. Since I was 10, 'Shoot the ball, Lamar.'"
-- The Times' Mike Bresnahan dutifully notes that when Andrew Bynum gets touches, he scores. We'll soon see whether that's the case when Gasol returns, which is expected to happen Friday against the Clippers.
-- Though Dirk Nowitzki surpassed the 20,000-point plateau, the Dallas Morning News' Eddie Sefko writes the milestone was overshadowed by the Mavericks' loss to the Lakers.
Tweet of the Day: "PJ and Frank Hamblen laughing on the bench about something after Artest actually uses triangle post spot to create an easy shot for himself." -- KevinDing (Orange County Register's Lakers reporter Kevin Ding).
-- Mark Medina
Photo: Kobe Bryant's back spasms improved marginally in the second half, just enough for him to bury a 19-footer with 28.9 seconds left, putting the Lakers ahead of the Mavericks for good, 97-95. Credit: Matthew Emmons / US Presswire