Ding Dong, the dictator, ball hog is almost gone. Just one more year of tolerating Kobe Bryant acting like he’s still one of the best players in the NBA, and the Los Angeles Lakers can become a normal team again.
Mitch Kupchak has said Bryant is indicating that the 2015-2016 NBA season will be his last. Kupchak also said that giving free agents the perception that they can win and soon with their team is very important. Money and the chance to play next to a so-called star like Bryant isn’t enough. Obviously, Kupchak didn’t say the second sentence, but he, and a lot among the Lakers fan base, despite the delusional, rabid following Bryant gets for things he did in the past but no longer matter, are thinking that exact thing.
No, it’s impossible to take away what Bryant, the Lakers’ all-time leading scorer, has done for the franchise over the years, which includes winning five NBA championships. He’s one of the best players in history, probably the second best shooting guard to play the game. But Bryant has become more and more cumbersome to keep over the last few years. His massive contract, his inability to change, and his presence pushing away anything that might be good, promising or important for the Lakers and their future.
A player like Jeremy Lin could have been an excellent point guard for the Lakers, for more than one season. But the combination of having Bryant as a teammate and Byron Scott as a head coach (another thing the Lakers should seriously consider getting rid of) killed off any chance of Lin doing well in Los Angeles, and he’ll be leaving as a free agent this summer. While Dwight Howard isn’t the player to build a franchise around, not alone, it might have been better if Bryant hadn’t pushed him away. It would have made things easier in terms of avoiding two abysmal seasons, two of the worst in franchise history.
The deal with the devil the Lakers made still makes no sense whatsoever. Sure, maybe they’d be selling less jerseys. But the name is bigger than the player. This is the best franchise in the history of the league. Bryant has been part of that legacy, but it’s time to move on. It was time two or three years ago, only no one had the guys to use the amnesty clause on the contract that needed it more than anything.
The Lakers signed Bryant on a two year deal worth nearly $50 million, keeping him as the highest paid player in the league. Bryant, who has played a total of 41 regular season games through the last two seasons. Someone who has games in which he refuses to shoot in order to show the populace that he’s a merciful god. Someone who can no longer play defense in transition or for more than two plays in a row in half court before tiring out. Here also comes in the fact that Scott, genius of a head coach that he is, overworked a 36-year old player with knee and shoulder problems because he thought he could take it. Just going on a hunch.
One more year, probably, although Bryant hasn’t said anything yet. This year could be a great building block for the Lakers. Julius Randle will be back from injury to re-do his rookie season. Jordan Clarkson has a chance to become a meaningful guard for them, although Bryant might get in his way. With the second overall draft pick, they have a potential big man for years to come in Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns, whoever falls into their lap. But they have to go through another Bryant circus year, hopefully the last. And the coaching, or something similar to it, of Byron Scott, who shouldn’t be in this league anymore.