The Lakers (36-34) lost momentum in Week 21, losing both games and their chance to climb higher than eighth place in the Western Conference.
In the loss to the Suns, Coach Mike D'Antoni only used seven players for the second night in a row, but the short rotation was a symptom of the Lakers' problems, not the cause.
Fortunately, the Utah Jazz let the Lakers off the hook, losing at home to the New York Knicks.
While injured, Bryant tried to help in the role of unofficial assistant coach, although D'Antoni cautioned that Bryant can be "a little bit of a loose cannon" if he's giving different instructions than the Lakers coach.
On their day off, the Lakers gained some ground on the Golden State Warriors and pulled slightly ahead of the Jazz.
Pau Gasol's status was the mystery of the week. After a setback toward the end of Week 20, his foot improved, but it still wasn't clear if the Lakers power forward would play on Friday against the Washington Wizards.
Both he and Bryant would start, but the Lakers still fell apart in the second half, losing 103-100. Bryant chose not to guard Trevor Ariza most of the night, and the former Laker forward bested his old team with 25 points.
Despite the injuries, the Lakers' rotation is starting to take shape with Gasol and Bryant back, assuming Jamison doesn't miss time.
Magic Johnson also changed his tune about the Lakers' chances.
In the first round of the playoffs, the San Antonio Spurs may be the better matchup for the Lakers than the Oklahoma City Thunder, at least based on the regular-season results thus far.
In other news, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar made his diving debut on ABC's "Splash."
Time Warner Cable SportsNet's "Backstage: Lakers" provided a behind-the-scenes look at the Lakers' win over the Toronto Raptors.
The Lakers took their 2012-13 team photo, leaving an empty chair for the late Jerry Buss.
Dwight Howard visited Delta Air Lines at LAX to surprise travelers by working the check-in counter.
As Bryant worked to rehab his sprained ankle, his wax figure at Madame Tussauds Hollywood did the same.
It was always going to happen, but the Clippers locked in a higher position in the Pacific Division than the Lakers. It's just a matter of time before the Clippers clinch the division title (ahead of the Warriors).
Trevor Ariza bests his former teammate Kobe Bryant