At this point of his career, the obsessed about his legacy Kobe Bryant is playing only for one thing: Winning that sixth NBA title ring. However, he doesn’t have a good enough team in the current Los Angeles Lakers to help him achieve that goal, which means he’ll have to settle for trying and becoming the greatest scorer in NBA history.
Right now, Bryant is 6770 points away from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Bryant did turn 35 two months ago, but after averaging over 27 points per game in the last couple of seasons, there are few who doubt his ability to continue and be a 25 points per game scorer in his late 30’s and after his Achilles tendon injury.
But this is a team sport, right? Not Bryant’s personal playground to set milestones. He’s after a title ring, which is achieved by a team, and other good players around him, like Pau Gasol, who helped Bryant win two rings in 2009 and 2010. But this Gasol, finally playing once again in the paint this season, isn’t the kind of player he was three years ago. Knees, confidence and simply age have caught up with him.
How about Steve Nash, the only players the Lakers have signed beyond this season? If Nash plays more than 65 games next season, it’ll be close to a miracle. Expecting him to play 30 minutes a night while trying to understand if he’s a spot up shooter or an actual point guard (it’s confusing playing next to Kobe Bryant) isn’t good for your ability. And Nash is one of the oldest players in the NBA, while his backups, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar, aren’t going to provide quality relief.
The team the Lakers have built this season suggest no long term thinking. All there is right now is cap space that clears up from Bryant and Gasol’s contract, although both of them aren’t thinking about going for minimum deals once they become free agents. The Lakers seem to think that LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony are signing with them. But building your entire roster based on that long shot just seems like lazy, not to say stupid, thinking.
Like the Dallas Mavericks over the last couple of years, there is no planning. Just short-term hopes around an aging Dirk Nowitzki, hoping that the players they’ve put around him are good enough for a delusional title chase, before making one huge reshuffle once more.
The Lakers are heading to that same direction. Kobe Bryant isn’t the kind of player who will allow this team to tank in order to get a lottery draft pick. The sad thing will be that they’ll play their hardest, and still miss the playoffs most likely, as it’s hard to see how a roster that has Nick Young and Wesley Johnson in key roles plans on finishing in the top 8 of a loaded Western conference. The lingering question that is going back to last season has to do with who is going to play defense on this team, as the Lakers were among the worst in the league, especially when it came to guarding the perimeter and on fast breaks, when they had Dwight Howard.
Entering the twilight stage of his career, Bryant wants to play for championships. Unfortunately, it’ll be about scoring like it’s 2006 or something around that phase, with the only real goal he has to chase and has hope of catching up is Jabbar’s scoring record.