Kobe Bryant Achilles injury: Where do the Lakers go from here

By Matt Moore | NBA writer

At some point, if they can get through the tears, they have to laugh. That's all you can do when everything goes this wrong, all at once.

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In a season that has set the very definition of the word "cursed," the Lakers might have received their final blow to a season born in promise and hype and which has suffered nothing but ignominy and disappointment. Kobe Bryant went down Friday night vs. the Warriors with what the Lakers are describing as a "probable torn Achilles tendon." Bryant himself confirmed after the game that he believes it's a torn Achilles.

Bryant's season is, pending the formality of an MRI, over. In a season in which he put in arguably the best offensive performance of his career, after 17 seasons, the fates have once again conspired to take away his ability to lead his team to the sixth title that he craves so much. Recovery for an Achilles injury requires several months.

Bryant's season is over. The Lakers' however, is not.

The Lakers still have control of their own destiny for the eighth seed in the playoffs, still have Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, and will get Steve Nash back at some point. They still have a monster payroll and expectations every season to bring home a title, though they now have the biggest pressure possible off their backs. Everything from here on out is gravy.

Which is good, because it gets so much harder from here.

For starters, the Lakers have a one-game lead on the Jazz for the eighth seed with two games remaining. The Lakers need a win against San Antonio on Sunday and a loss by the Jazz on Monday to clinch the eighth seed.

How do you make up for the loss of Kobe Bryant? You don't. There's no way. Bryant is third among rotation players in percentage of team points produced at 33 percent. You don't magically make up 33 percent of your offense, especially when it comes from a player who produces them like Kobe Bryant.

Nash will have to be the biggest creator, however. He's going to have to shoot more freely, pass more aggressively, handle the ball more than he has at any point this season -- and do it coming back from an injury that kept him out for a month.

Gasol will have to be superb. He'll have to play at a level that we haven't seen since the 2010 Finals and keep feeding Howard. Jodie Meeks will have to hit threes. Metta World Peace will have to score inside. Earl Clark will have to produce on cuts and from the corner.

But more than anything, without question, this team has to become Dwight Howard's. Howard has to take control of the team and make it his. He has never done this before. The Magic were built around him, but Stan Van Gundy modeled a team around him. He had to fit a big role that was built for him. Howard has to take the reins of this team and make it his. He has to lead, he has to score, he has to rebound, and he has to play defense like he did in 2011.

The Lakers cannot survive without the very best of Dwight Howard. Is he ready for that responsibility? Is he ready for that performance? Is he ready to do that with a bad back, an old, shaky roster and an uncertain future?

We're about to find out.

But no matter what, it won't be the same. It can't be the same without Bryant, not even close.

And by it, I don't mean the Lakers. I mean basketball.

But the season, it goes on.

 
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