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Knicks vs. Lakers: Aside From Kobe Bryant, These Lakers Are No Showtime

Jeremy Lin is running the show for the New York Knicks. There is no Carmelo Anthony (injury), or Amare Stoudemire (death in the family). The big, bad Los Angeles Lakers are coming to town on Friday night, buoyed by their two superstars Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. Bryant has five championship rings and just recently passed Shaquille O’Neal for fifth place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. It doesn’t seem fair.

If you watched Thursday’s Lakers-Celtics game, you saw that Kobe Bryant is still the most gifted man on an NBA roster. The fact that he’s leading the league in scoring at 29.4 points per game at age 33 with over 1,100 games and 41,000 minutes on his odometer is astounding. Any LeBron-Kobe discussion belongs in a trash can. If Kobe’s on, and he can certainly be on on any night, the Lakers are tough to beat.

But these aren’t the Magic Johnson Lakers or the Jerry West Lakers. While they’re still Kobe’s Lakers, they more closely resemble Kobe’s post-Shaq, pre-Gasol Laker teams in terms of being a serious title contender (even with Gasol still hanging around). Last night’s win against the Celtics proved a few things mainly: A) Kobe’s ability to still hit near-impossible shots at crucial times, and B) the Lakers are a deeply flawed roster. Much like the Celtics, the Lakers are a team with a lot of veterans and a core that’s won a championship, but their ancillary parts are highly questionable. They’re also an aging squad whose role players have the ability to be outplayed by their opponents on a nightly basis. Another issue? Legendary coach Phil Jackson has been replaced by Mike Brown, a solid NBA coach, but not nearly in the same class as Jackson.

The Lakers come into the game at 15-11 but have struggled on the road with a 4-9 mark. They’ll enter Friday’s game having just played in overtime in an ugly, physical struggle. Not only are the Knicks a bit fresher, but they have momentum on their side and the Garden is going to be rocking. Stunningly, the reason for both of those is Jeremy Lin, the new savior, the folk hero, the rock star. On a night where MSG Network is treating Knicks-Lakers like the Oscars, Jeremy Lin is the headliner. The fact that people are penning this game as Lin vs. Kobe is not just crazy, it’s funny, stupid, sad and uplifting all at the same time.

The Knicks are 2-0 since Lin entered the starting lineup and 3-0 since he was given a chance to play. Kobe and Gasol present the two most talented players the Knicks will have faced since Lin’s takeover. But they’re not an unbeatable team. Lin won’t be going head-to-head against Bryant, he’ll be matched up mostly with Steve Blake and Derrick Fisher. He’s put up big numbers and led the Knicks to victory against John Wall and Deron Williams.

Of course there’s a chance the Linsanity hits a wall tonight, as there is any time Jeremy Lin steps on an NBA court. But there’s also just as good a chance the fairy tale continues.