Caught in the Web: Injuries continue to be an issue with the Lakers
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant hopes to return Tuesday against Memphis after missing the past five games because of an injured left ankle and tendon. And it couldn't come soon enough, jokingly threatening that if he doesn't return to the lineup by then, "he's firing everybody."
The Lakers have managed just fine, going 4-1 during his absence and Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix says that simply illustrates the team's depth. There should be no debate valuing Bryant's value to the team (it's high). But there's a valid debate on whether the Lakers' 4-1 record during Bryant's absence came as a result of better team chemistry, something that wasn't always present when Bryant was on the floor because of his want to carry the team and team passivity.
That being said, Joseph Treutlein, co-owner of Hoopdata.com, wrote in The NY Times' Off the Dribble blog that the main issue didn't involve offensive efficiency since that actually worsened during Bryant's absence. But the team made up for that with strong defensive performances.
And then don't forget in the Lakers' recent loss to the Boston Celtics, NBC Los Angeles' Kurt Helin provided a good reminder that Bryant sure would've been helpful in making a game-winning shot, something he's done in five games including the Lakers' last meeting against Boston on Jan. 31.
It's still a few days before the Lakers will play, let alone Bryant. So in the meantime, Forum Blue and Gold has been passing the time by watching Bryant tribute videos
More Lakers links (after the jump)
--The offensive breakdowns against Boston wound up becoming a value team-learning experience, Lakers guard Derek Fisher told the Riverside Press-Enterprise's Dan Weber. It also brought up Luke Walton providing a solution for close games. Said Bryant: "He said next time what you do when you can’t play is sit on the bench in your uniform. If it comes down to that situation, just send yourself in like Mariano Rivera."
--Though the Denver Nuggets stand second in the Western Conference, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson says that the third-place Utah Jazz will unseat Denver as the second-best team in the West.
--The Lakers lead the West, but the latest NBA rankings from The Times' Mark Heisler provides the latest reminder that the Lakers are still trying to catch up to Cleveland.
--Heisler breaks down some of the misconceptions regarding various trades made before the deadline. Forum Blue and Gold provides its own thoughts, and the Kamenetzky Brothers share their analysis on how these trades ultimately affect the Lakers.
Tweet of the Day: "Kobe Kobe Kobe - why can't I get that chant out of my mind? Actually will probably make me sleep better thinking of him returning soon." -- JeanieBuss (Lakers executive vice president Jeanie Buss).
Photo: Kobe Bryant will have rested his ankle for 18 days by the time the Lakers take the court at Memphis on Tuesday, his target return date. Credit: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images.