Getting others involved is key
Let's be clear about one thing: The Lakers need Kobe Bryant on the floor if they're going to do anything of any real significance as a team.
If that seems ridiculous to mention, you might not listen to sports talk radio in L.A. or peruse the comments sections of Lakers articles online. There always seems to be a contingent of fans who will find a way to blame Bryant for the Lakers' shortcomings. He shot too much, he didn't shoot enough, he never passes, he's passing too much … you get the picture.
When the Lakers beat the Indiana Pacers on the road last week, essentially without Kobe, and then defeated the Kings without him as well, it was only natural to wonder if some adjustment needed to be made when he returned. And then the Lakers got blown out by the lowly Suns and, well, now everyone is counting down the days until Kobe returns.
Whenever he does come back, Kobe will need to make some minor adjustments and realize that players like Steve Blake, Antawn Jamison and even Jodie Meeks are coming into their own at the right time and the Lakers will need them to be effective if they're going to do anything in the playoffs. There was certainly a time when the Lakers couldn't count on their bench, but it seems that in Kobe and Pau Gasol's absence, the Lakers have to find a consistent trio that will at least be able to give them a scoring punch, which may or may not give them a puncher's chance come playoff time.
They must step up in support
We learned this week that Metta World Peace and Antawn Jamison are still capable of producing at a high level when asked to take on more of the offensive load. We also learned that Steve Nash and Dwight Howard have still got it and that there's a reason Steve Blake was one of the more sought-after free agent point guards a few years ago.
They were valuable lessons. Reminders that the Lakers are more than a bunch of guys Kobe Bryant is willing back into playoff contention after a disastrous start. But we also learned that Jamison and World Peace can combine to score 49 points one night, then shoot a combined 6-for-23 and score just 15 points the next night. This is not a knock on either player. Just a reminder of why the Lakers are built around Kobe Bryant. As the hashtag goes, they can #countonkobe every night, not just occasionally.
Did the ball move a little better Sunday night with Bryant out? Yes. Does that mean the Lakers are better without him? Noooooo. Monday's lethargic loss to Phoenix should be enough to prove that point. It was the kind of game Bryant would've found a way to rescue the Lakers from. Without him, they wilted.
But this is about more than a couple of games. It's about a philosophy and a reality the Lakers happily chose a long time ago. For as long as he's willing to accept the responsibility, the Lakers go as Kobe goes.