The Silver Lining in an Achilles Injury
By now ESPN has no doubt pounded into your brain that Kobe Bryant has torn an achilles and will be out a reported 6-9 months.
It's been an amazing run for the Black Mamba at playing through injuries, and even Kobe haters have to acknowledge his toughness to play while hurt. However, this is one injury even Kobe cannot play though.
However, don't light yourselves on fire just yet, Lakers fans, because this injury may have been the best thing to happen to your franchise all season, and it may have cemented your future for the better.
This offseason is a very big one for the future of the Lakers. Dwight Howard can choose to stay in L.A. and sign a long-term deal or he can split town to sign with his hometown Hawks, the lurking Mavericks, or any other team with enough cap room.
It's been a rocky road for the Lakers this season. There has been tension among the players. There has been tension between Mike D'Antoni and just about everyone. And there has been losing. Oh, the losing! It was out of control in the first half of the season, though it;s worth mentioning that they seem to have righted the ship; since their loss on 23 January, the Lakers have been a much-improved 21-12.
Now, it's nearly impossible to tell what's going on in the mind of Dwight, so I'm not even going to attempt a guess. But here are a few things we do know for sure:
- Dwight definitely butted heads with Kobe towards the beginning of the season as they struggled to find an identity and struggled to earn one another's respect.
- Dwight is now without question the best player on the team, and if they can clinch the playoffs over the next few days, he will get a taste of what it's like to be L.A.'s Number One.
- Kobe has an injury that is notorious for hindering jump shots, post-recovery, and will more than likely shorten his career, and even he has questioned, albeit in a knee-jerk type of way, the logistics of his comeback. If Kobe does come back next year, the 6-9 months timeline puts his return somewhere between October and January, and considering his age and general wear on his body, it's probably closer to January, if not longer.
It's my prediction that Kobe will return around March to get ready for next year's playoffs, giving him yet another chance to be like Mike. And after that, I believe he'll retire, ending things on his own terms. Even if he attempts to play another full season after recovery, Kobe's days are certainly numbered. Where he may have had 2-3 more productive years in the league, he is now looking at somewhere between retirement and two years left, max.
That means that the key to the Lakers multi-million dollar Porsche of a franchise will be handed over to Superman himself, Dwight Howard. Even if Kobe comes back late next year, by then it will be Dwight's team.
And by the way, it's for the better.
I'm not challenging the greatness of Kobe and I'm not saying they are a better team without him, but I will say that it's better to lose Kobe than Dwight. With Bynum out this year, Dwight is unquestionably the best center in the league, and I believe these numbers speak for themselves:
|Kobe Bryant in Laker Losses||29.9||45%||4.8||22.7|
|Kobe Bryant in Laker Wins||25.1||47%||6.2||18.5|
|Dwight Howard in Laker Losses||14.4||54%||11.8||9.2|
|Dwight Howard in Laker Wins||19.3||60%||12.8||11.8|