On Friday night, Kobe Bryant’s locker will again be void of a Los Angeles Lakers home jersey. With Bryant injured, the Los Angeles Lakers host the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center. Sadly, Bryant only played two of his six games at Staples Center this season, so the Lakers’ crowd is more accustomed to watching this year’s Lakers play without the Mamba than with the Mamba.
For the next six weeks, the Lakers will hope to repeat the same success they experienced without Bryant for the first five weeks of the season. After all, the Lakers were a winning team without Bryant available to play.
Arguably, the chemistry and balance of the team was better without no. 24 in the lineup.
On Friday night, the toughest challenge for the Lakers involves playing without a point guard. Xavier Henry, who is naturally a shooting guard, will assume Bryant’s place in the starting lineup. He will have the incredibly difficult task of guarding Ricky Rubio.
The Timberwolves came to Staples Center earlier in the season when LA had Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar available. On that occasion, Rubio managed a triple-double with 12 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds. The Spaniard also added five steals.
On Friday night, Henry has his work cut out for him.
With regards to a backup point guard, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni was unsure of how everything would play out, but he would not rule out using new signing Kendall Marshall. With J.J. Barea acting as Minnesota’s backup, whoever ends up playing backup point guard for the Lakers will have his hands full.
Minnesota enters Friday’s game having won four of the last six games, including Wednesday’s home win over the best team in the NBA: the Portland Trail Blazers. In that game, Kevin Love played an all-around spectacular game and finished with 29 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists.
Love has been playing at an incredibly high level recently, and the former UCLA Bruin is averaging 31 points, 13 rebounds and four assists over the past five games. The Lakers will likely hope to use some combination of Jordan Hill, Pau Gasol, Robert Sacre and Shawne Williams to slow down the versatile power forward, but that hardly sounds like a convincing approach to stopping Love.
Friday is the start of a new season for the Lakers, and their role as underdogs will only be more pronounced over the next six weeks. Fortunately, that role is nothing new for this team or the individuals on this team. Adding a player out of the D-League to the roster only adds to the underdog mentality and hunger in these scrappy Lakers.
The Timberwolves and Lakers tip-off at 7:30 pm PST.