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Kobe Bryant injury has OKC Thunder, San Antonio Spurs licking their chops for possible first-round playoff matchup with Lakers

BY JOHN ROHDE, Staff Writer, Published: April 13, 2013

A 15-time All-Star in his 17 NBA seasons, Bryant was having one of the most efficient seasons in his career, averaging 27.3 points, 6.0 assists and 5.4 rebounds while singlehandedly trying to carry the snakebit Lakers into the playoffs.

Lakers center Dwight Howard, who has struggled with back and shoulder problems this season, addressed the team after Saturday's practice.

“I just told them that they put this team together for a reason and we all know how to play basketball,” Howard said. “We've all done special things in our career before and it's time to do it again. We've all been blessed to play with Kobe but we all have talent, too, and we have to show it.”

The 34-year-old Bryant hadn't even been prepped for surgery when his future with the Lakers already was being questioned.

Bryant will make $30.4 million next season, the last year of his contract. The Lakers still have the amnesty clause available and must use it during the July 1-9 league moratorium. If the Lakers use amnesty on Bryant, they would save more than $60 million in luxury tax penalties.

Kupchak said the team has not considered the move, however. “That's the furthest thing from our mind right now,” said Kupchak, who told the Lakers are looking for potential free agents eligible to add depth with Bryant out.

Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said veteran point guard Steve Nash (right hamstring) will be a game-time decision Sunday against the Spurs. Jodie Meeks will start in place of Bryant.

“It's everybody's time,” D'Antoni said. “That's why it's a team, but the ball should automatically go to (Howard) more, because somebody has got to take the shots and obviously with Kobe not out there, it's got to go to somebody. But, it will go through Pau (Gasol), it will go through Dwight and as long as we're playing for each other, we should be fine.”

Being “fine” usually doesn't last long in the playoffs.