We can probably take off the Los Angeles Lakers from the list of teams that are going to sign LaMarcus Aldridge this offseason. Why? Because of a bad sales pitch by those in the meeting, including Kobe Bryant and the overall presence of him on the team and his effect on the ball club.
The reports suggest that Aldridge wasn’t too impressed with what the Lakers had to offer him, talking more about outside-basketball opportunities, while Kobe Bryant mentioned that he sees Aldridge as another Pau Gasol. Which means this is still Kobe’s team, and that probably didn’t help sell the opportunity of playing in Los Angeles. Obviously, both Aldridge’s agents and Bryant are denying this.
This isn’t all Bryant’s fault. According to the leaks from the meetings, he really didn’t say that much. It was the overall pitch, focusing on a lot of things that aren’t basketball, and the current situation of the Lakers. The pitch probably focused on what Los Angeles has to offer and not the prospect of success with the Lakers because of how far they are for contending for anything.
But that comes back to Bryant, who hasn’t been exactly helpful in other pursuits of free agents over the last two or three years, especially with Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony. Pre-2012 Bryant could have talked down to someone and wouldn’t be turning them off regarding the Lakers. But now? When he’s overpriced and more of a burden on his team than anything else? It’s hard to take his talk about championships and other things seriously.
The Lakers are no longer an attractive destination because of how they made everything fall apart around Bryant and because of him. The amnesty clause that should have been used on him was instead used on Metta World Peace. Instead of trying to curb his power they let it fester like an open wound and destroy almost everything good around it.
When there was finally the opportunity to let go of him or at least make him less damaging to the team, Bryant got a two-year deal for $49 million, killing any chance of cap flexibility and bypassing the long, painful rebuild plan. Bryant, no longer the player he was during the two Finals MVPs in 2009 and 2010, injured more than he was healthy, dragged the team down with him, and is still doing so.
These reports of how things went in the meeting are based on Twitter, so you never know how much of it is true. But things do add up when it comes to the Lakers, who just aren’t that good of a place to play in right now, not for Aldridge and not for a lot of other players who are thinking about winning championships or at least competing for them in the next two years. Only when Bryant is finally gone, if he retires at the end of the season, then the full healing process can finally begin.