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Lakers lack definitive Kobe Bryant backup

December 21, 2011 |  2:15 pm

Kobe Bryant

Just when it appeared the Lakers finally enjoyed a healthy Kobe Bryant, one loud thud and one diagnosis throws cold water on that enthusiasm.

Bryant won't play in Wednesday's exhibition game against the Clippers after an MRI revealed he has a torn lunotriquetral ligament in his right wrist. DeAndre Jordan's blocked shot on Bryant's dunk attempt in Monday's exhibition against the Clippers caused him to land awkwardly on that wrist. But Bryant immediately bounced up and appeared fine.

Regardless of the severity of Bryant's injury, however, the Lakers have a deeply rooted problem beyond losing Lamar Odom. They lack a true backup shooting guard to play behind Bryant. Their main option last year in Shannon Brown proved to be unreliable and inconsistent. From a pure depth standpoint, his departure to the Phoenix Suns via free agency exposes that even more.

Lakers Coach Mike Brown argued earlier this week that players such as Jason Kapono and Devin Ebanks  could easily play between the shooting guard and small forward positions based on need. But that's an unrealistic option. Kapono's sharp three-point shooting surely gives the Lakers another volume shooter. But he's more equipped to play at small forward because he doesn't handle the ball particularly well. Ebanks has potential in earning more playing times after improving his shooting and defense. But he's not a ball-handler either. Plus, Ebanks might face some limitation because of a sore right foot. 

The Lakers already have enough problems to worry about, handling Odom's departure, seeing how new forwards Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy will fit in and absorbing Andrew Bynum's five-game suspension. Now this. Sure, it's plausible Bryant could return in time for the Christmas Day opener against the Chicago Bulls. Regardless, the Lakers better put higher priority in securing a shooting guard via free agency, unless of course, rookie Andrew Goudelock suddenly appears ready to take that task.

That remains just as uncertain, however, as the severity of Bryant's injury. 


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--Mark Medina

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Photo: Kobe Bryant. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times