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Battle of Attrition in L.A.

24 Dec 2011

Kobe will play. Of course he will. You would have to chop his hand clean off to keep him on the sideline, and all he’s got is a torn ligament in his shooting wrist, the delightfully named lunotriquetral ligament.

But he won’t be at top strength Sunday against the Bulls, and neither will his team:

Andrew Bynum is suspended for the first four games after hitting J.J. Barea in last year’s Western Conference finals; Lamar Odom was unceremoniously shipped off to Dallas (for nearly nothing); and Matt Barnes and the artist formerly known as Ron Artest apparently aren’t good enough to beat out someone named Devin Ebanks for the starting small forward spot.

Pau Gasol, a gimpy Kobe, Barnes, Artest, Josh McRoberts, Derek Fisher, Steve Blake, Ebanks, Jason Kapono, Troy Murphy — this is a group that is going to beat Chicago on Sunday? If the game is even particularly close, the Bulls have more work to do than we thought.

These Lakers are as vulnerable as they’ve been in years, as Ramona Shelburne explains:

The Lakers already had a narrow path to success this season. They are older, less talented, less cohesive and less deep than at any other point in the past four years. The locker room is a mess. There is no camaraderie to speak of. And, really, how could there be after everything that’s happened?

Since the lockout was lifted, a steady rain has fallen on the Lakers. In two weeks they were attempting to replace a coaching legend, learn a new offense, a new defense, create a new culture and work in a half dozen new players while the front office was simultaneously planning to reboot all of what had made them back-to-back NBA champs two years ago.

After the NBA made the decision to veto the Lakers’ proposed trade for point guard Chris Paul, any semblance of organizational trust or good tidings had been nuked.

Absent a heroic performance by Kobe, I don’t see this one being close.

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