NBA

Kobe Bryant and D'Angelo Russell.

Why the Los Angeles Lakers have a bright future without Kobe Bryant

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Aside from Kobe Bryant's farewell tour, the 2015-16 season has been a year to forget for the Los Angeles Lakers. The Black Mamba's voyage around the league to say a final goodbye has overshadowed a season that has seen the Lakers occupy the bottom spot of the Western Conference for the majority. 

Throughout the campaign, there has been talk about how the purple and yellow can be competitive without their leader and legend. Before the All-Star break, the prospects looked bleak, but all of a sudden, there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel. 

President Jeanie Buss recently said she wanted her franchise to be competing at the top of the West next season. While jostling for the number one spot may be beyond their reach, a playoff birth is easily imaginable.

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But where has this late burst of positivity surrounding the Lakers come from? Their young trio who took it to the Golden State Warriors and left the Staples Center with a historic victory against the defending champions, that's where. 

Kobe scored 12 points in the win over the Dubs but took up more of a coaching role from the sidelines as the young guns showed there was a bright future for the L.A franchise following the nailed on Hall of Famer's retirement. 

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There was further evidence of this bright tomorrow when they overcame the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night. Bryant sat out the encounter and the trio of Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and D'Angelo Russell took centre stage. 

The two sophomores - Randle and Clarkson - have been involved in the starting five for some time, but it has been the emergence of Russell in the post All-Star schedule that has really caught the imagination of the Lakers nation.

The 20-year-old was removed from the starting five by Byron Scott early in December but was thrust back into the one spot from the beginning after the weekend in Toronto. 

Los Angeles Lakers v Los Angeles Clippers

His showing against the Warriors was not a one off; he poured down 39 points during the win over the Brooklyn Nets - a season-high for a rookie - and notched over 20 points for the sixth time in seven games as the Magic fell at Staples. 

The backcourt duo of Russell and Clarkson really showed their class against the best guard pairing in the league; Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Combining for 46 points, they led their franchise to victory. 

But Clarkson has shown his ability throughout the season and has been one of the Lakers' shining lights in an otherwise terrible campaign. Averaging 15.9 points per game, he has highly improved his outlay from his rookie year.

Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers

Randle has also had a solid season in the frontcourt; averaging a double-double of 11.7 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, the University of Kentucky product will only improve as his career in the NBA goes on. 

Good form late in the year could alter the Lakers' chances of a high lottery pick in the draft - number one would surely bring in the highly rated Ben Simmons - but any form at this stage can be a sign of things to come, especially if they can win without Bryant.

Topics:
Julius Randle
LA Lakers
Pacific Division
Western Conference
NBA
Kobe Bryant
Jordan Clarkson
D'Angelo Russell

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