One of the worst things the Los Angeles Lakers have did in recent seasons wasn’t just give Kobe Bryant the extension that makes no sense, but practically making him bigger than the franchise. Pau Gasol is a player that should have been traded, but the indecisiveness of the front office goes to show how afraid they are of the reaction of their biggest star.
Why did Bryant become larger than anything else for the Lakers? He won championships without Shaquille O’Neal, after the Lakers got him Pau Gasol in 2008, leading the Lakers under Phil Jackson to three consecutive NBA Finals before slowly declining and pretty much falling apart. The Lakers built for the now, but got bitten from about every direction.
Re-signing Bryant? It’s not a move for the future, but the problem is that it isn’t even a move for the now. Bryant will forever be labeled as an injury risk, a $24 million a season risk. It hurts the Lakers’ free agency flexibility, and it might also keep big stars from wanting to play for a franchise bound by the hip to its aging star, and using twisted logic in its decision making, which is why we’ve seen them fall so drastically over the last three-four seasons into one of the worst teams in the NBA, with or without Bryant.
The Lakers were on the verge of trading Gasol to the Cavs, but didn’t get enough for him (Andrew Bynum and they wanted Dion Waiters). The Lakers wanted one draft pick as well. The Cavs ended up giving away Bynum to the Bulls for Luol Deng, but also three draft picks. Good deal? Better deal? It doesn’t matter. Gasol is still on the Lakers, with a head coach that isn’t really happy to see him every day in the locker room, and an overwhelming sense that whatever happens this season doesn’t matter – they won’t make the playoffs, and Kobe Bryant will ruin the fun they’re having on the floor without him.
Bryant isn’t happy about the Lakers trading Gasol for some reason. Maybe he thinks that the things that worked five years ago can still be used to win a championship today. Bryant might not be aware of the new CBA and limitations – giving him and Gasol new deals doesn’t make the Lakers better, and doesn’t help them assemble a team like they had from 2008 to 2011.
Bryant serves himself, his interests, and then what he sees fit for the Lakers. In his mind they’re the same thing. He doesn’t mind publicly attacking the franchise for trying to trade Gasol, even though he’s going to become a free agent at the end of the season and with D’Antoni staying (unless there’s something brewing we don’t know), Gasol isn’t planning on extending his Lakers stay.
This isn’t a members only club run by Kobe Bryant, or at least it shouldn’t be. The Los Angeles Lakers turned it into one when they didn’t amnesty Bryant when they had the chance. Mediocrity is a no-no for a team like the Lakers, but by turning it into a one-man franchise, the Lakers have guaranteed a future with a very limited chance of success.