People don’t always do the smart things because of, well, less than intelligent decision making. While Kobe Bryant has been the face of the Los Angeles Lakers for over a decade, the Southern California will get over him eventually, like they do about everything, once the team built around others, specifically Dwight Howard, starts winning games at an acceptable rate. Meanwhile, the team is more inclined to release Pau Gasol than the Black Mamba.
This wasn’t the season Gasol would like to remember, but the absence of Bryant in recent games has the changed the mind of some regarding the Spaniard’s ability to still be a contributing factor at the highest level towards the positive. In the last six games, including the playoff loss to the Spurs, Gasol is averaging 18.5 points per game with 15.2 rebounds. Suddenly, it’s possible to play with two bigs who don’t cancel each other out, because there is no one stopping the balls from going into the paint.
The Lakers aren’t built the right way to have an Orlando like team in their dominant seasons, with Howard and possibly another dominant big man in the paint, while three very capable shooters wait on the perimeter. But, by taking out the $30.4 million Bryant is going to earn in the 2013-2014 season, you can build a championship caliber team, or at least one that won’t struggle to make the playoffs with plenty of depth and a lot less ego battles along the way.
According to Kurt Helin, the Lakers aren’t going to amnesty Bryant. That is not how the Lakers relationship with Kobe works. He is too central to their marketing and identity right now. He is the Lakers.
And that’s where it goes wrong, because Bryant might be the face of the franchise, but he’s also a hindering substance, preventing the Lakers from moving on because he isn’t willing to let go, and never will. Unless the Lakers are planning to give up on Dwight Howard during the summer, and that seems highly unlikely, there is no way Bryant, if and when he returns, is suddenly going to become a player that fits a system instead of enforcing himself on one.
Gasol might be amnestied due to his $19.3 million contract. He might be traded as well, but that doesn’t really help the Lakers’ contract situation, which is going to look very ugly next season with too many big deals on it to have any free agency or trade maneuverability. Just think about this season, only it might get even worse. Metta World Peace might be the one to get eventually released.
But Bryant is the best option. All the boos in the world won’t change that. He’s not good enough to take a team on his back to the NBA title the Lakers think they’re worth, and he’s not willing to give up on power and certainly not money in order to help it happen. Eventually, fans forgive, because wins beat anything else, even personalities. But the Lakers will do something else, and pay Bryant over $30 million he doesn’t deserve to be earning. Will they feel sorry for it? Time will tell, but my guess is the’ll be too deep in other problems than thinking about what could have been done.