Some things have about 0% chance of happening, but they do contain an interesting feature about them. Like the Los Angeles Lakers and Kobe Bryant. Bryant wants the team to get better, to be in an opportunity where he, yes he, can win a sixth NBA ring. But he doens’t want to trade Gasol (or at least he says so…) and the Lakers don’t have that many pieces worth anything. Why not just trade Bryant, and be done with it?
Look, Kobe Bryant is the best player on the Lakers team. Hell, he’s the leading NBA scorer this season, averaging 34.5 points in their two wins since the All-Star game, all that with a mask on his face. Some nights he’s still the best player in the NBA, when his out of control shooting attempts do go in. It’s pretty much a hot week – cold week kind of thing, which is good for the Lakers, but not “title contender” good.
We’ve argued all season long (3 months, that is) that the Lakers would be a better team if Bryant would take it easy on the field goal attempts, 23.7 per game, and the Lakers started going more inside to Andrew Bynum, enjoying the best season of his career, and Pau Gasol, who’s energy levels and intensity fluctuate tremendously each game.
The Lakers want a point guard. The Lakers want Dwight Howard. Well, actually, it’s Kobe Bryant who wants these things. The Lakers’ front office has been rather quiet. It traded Lamar Odom before the season began after he found out he was part of a deal to bring in Chris Paul which failed. So he got traded and the Lakers didn’t get any stronger.
This is a point guards league, but most teams in the league wouldn’t be starting Derek Fisher or Steve Blake in their lineup. Some team wouldn’t be giving them more then 10-15 minutes a night. And Kobe Bryant has been talking a lot lately. About what his front office should do, about being better than Michael Jordan, about not feeling he’s had an on court rival these past 15 years. Why not make life interesting for him?
Bryant was on the verge of leaving the Lakers in the post Shaq years, before Pau Gasol’s arrival, one of the weirder trades in NBA history, although a few years later, the Grizzlies are a pretty loaded and talented team. If Zach Randolph wouldn’t have gotten injured, maybe they would be giving the Thunder more of a fight for Western supremacy.
Bryant has a no-trade clause in his contract, or at least he had before the 2010 extension. Things were very good in the franchise during that period, so there’s no reason to believe something has changed. In 2007, Bryant was willing to wave that clause if getting traded meant going to Chicago or Phoenix. While a firm believer in what the Lakers can do to change, improve and challenge for a title, making him feel unwanted isn’t that difficult.
And if Bryant feels unwanted, will it change anything? Will he go into a strike mode, like he did in some playoff games five years ago, refusing to take shots? Or just pull up for 30, or more, field goal attempts? The LA fans don’t love Bryant. He’s their star player, has been for over a decade, but there’s no love. He got booed plenty of times, and no one will riot if he’s sent away.
The only question remains is if the Lakers are actually better off without him. Mike Brown doesn’t have a shot of actually changing anything in the offensive philosophy of this team, if he has one at all, unless Bryant completely changes. And he won’t. So if the Lakers execs meet up and think to themselves – The only way we’re getting a really good point guard or Center is by trading both Gasol and Bynum, with Howard not telling us if he’ll extend his contract at all once he signs, why should we?
The Lakers haven’t been into a real rebuilding period. They’ve had bad seasons, seasons without the playoffs, but never one of those awful, 25 win seasons. Maybe it’s time they go for it.