Who might Bryant face this upcoming post season?
If the playoffs started today, the Lakers would see New Orleans in the first round. The Lakers have not met New Orleans in the playoffs in a very long time, so it’s hard to tell who might get the graveyard shift. Although, one has to believe that Trevor Ariza might see significant time against Bryant, which may prove to be entertaining as the two actually like each other.
Either Denver or Oklahoma City would await in the second round. The Lakers have seen both teams in recent history, so the defensive match-ups are a bit more predictable. J.R. Smith and Kenyon Martin have attempted to tag team against Bryant in the past, but neither has the right combination of speed and length to really slow him down.
For the fans and the league, a second round series against the Thunder would be ideal. That means Bryant vs. Durant. Perhaps Durant does have a better mix of speed and length to make things interesting for Bryant, but there has not been an opponent in over 10 years that has had any amount of sustained luck against him.
Should the Lakers make it to the Finals, the only team that has any chance of containing Bryant is Miami. Dealing with LeBron and Dwayne, one after the other, might give Bryant the biggest challenge he’s had in years. If the Lakers face Orlando, we can expect Jason Richardson to see the most minutes against Two-Four on defense, but his time with the Suns only proved that Richardson has a hard time keeping his composure against a determined Bryant.
Bulls vs. Lakers in the Finals would be a media fantasy. We all know what happened to Brewer last time he guarded Bryant, so Keith Bogans and maybe even Luol Deng would get defensive minutes on Bryant. For one, it is hard to imagine that Bogans or Deng would be able to validate a myth that has existed for years – that Bryant can be stopped in the post season. Two, it would be even harder to imagine Bryant losing the opportunity to put his sixth cookie in the jar against the Bulls.
That is because it wouldn’t just be the Bulls. It would be “Jordan’s Bulls.” Even though the legend has no public affiliation with the franchise, it would beg the question:
What if we saw Jordan guarding Bryant?