Kobe Bryant

Life is hard for the Los Angeles Lakers. One bad contract with Steve Nash attached to it. Another terrible one with Kobe Bryant on the other end. Cap space but not the draw power they used to have, with no trade assets to use. Is the best NBA franchise of all-time destined to spend another season knowing they’re headed to the lottery? It’s hard to believe, but that may just be the case.

The Lakers want everyone. They want Carmelo Anthony to play for them. They want LeBron James to make them his decision. They want Kevin Love, now or in 2015. They want to have cap space to make things happen in 2015. They want to be competitive in 2014-2015 as well, knowing Kobe Bryant isn’t going to be happy if another year of whatever remains of his NBA career is wasted away.

There’s no head coach at the moment. Who wants to work knowing that next season he might no longer be there? This isn’t a team that slowly builds, although with a lottery pick (#7) they might actually be going in that direction, against all early estimations. Julius Randle? Marcus Smart? Rookies hasn’t been something the Lakers develop into stars for a very long time. Some say they might try and use the #7 pick to trade for someone like Klay Thompson.

Bryant

Everything the Lakers find troublesome about their current situation comes down to the decision of re-signing Kobe Bryant. A deal with the devil some might say. Not just keeping maybe the best player in the history of the franchise (Magic Johnson is actually), but giving him a $48.5 million deal for the next two seasons. He was eligible for a bigger deal beginning at $32 million, but the Lakers aren’t that insane.

There’s a huge argument about the whole Bryant ordeal. He means a lot to the fans, and maybe the Lakers would have taken a financial hit by not keeping him. However, more could have been done to reduce the price. And the Lakers brand is bigger than Bryant. It might not be bigger than his ego or his desire to put a sixth championship ring on his fingers, but no one should be bigger than the team.

And so the Lakers find themselves with cap space but clearly reeling behind everyone else when it comes to being able to to sign the top tier free agents. Maybe it shouldn’t be their goal. Maybe not going for the home run will be the way back to the top, somewhere they’ve been very far away from these past four seasons. Kyle Lowry? That’s a good option, but the Lakers are also so afraid of actually committing to anyone who isn’t a megastar.

There’s a fear about having cap space to compete with other teams for the big names that will flood the 2015 free agency market, if there will be actually such a flood. However, the problem begins from within and is actually impossible to change. It’s hard to find players willing to play next to Kobe Bryant. Maybe Dwight Howard should be blamed mostly for how things went down in Los Angeles, but it’s hard to ignore just how important Kobe Bryant himself was to everything falling apart.

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