It’s time, the run is over. All the air has been let out of the balloon and the tatters of what once was lie all over the hardwood at the Staples Center. A baron basketball wasteland exists where a sprawling metropolis once stood. The time has passed where the Lakers can count Kobe as a plus for the organization. Not only is his performance in decline, but he also has become a drag on the brand and made it hard for the Lakers to transition into the next era. Kobe Bryant is like Napoleon fighting the last battle in the Russian winter. I don’t believe that his presence in meetings with free agents is a big problem, but I think the totality of his presence on the team is making other stars hesitant to join the Lakers. And honestly I can’t blame them. Why would an NBA superstar, who’s being courted by several teams, want to subject himself to play with a guy who is way past his prime but acts like he is still the same guy he was in 2008.
The Lakers, a once proud franchise and global brand, have been reduced to rubble due to incompetent management and staying loyal to a player who was so greedy that he left the team handicapped in free agency. So far during this free agency period the Lakers couldn’t give their money away to any of the big targets and didn’t go after any solid pieces to help solidify their roster. Why go after LaMarcus Aldridge when you know there is a 2% chance of landing him? Instead of chasing big fish they should have been making a run at smaller names like Tobias Harris or Demarre Carroll, who you can pair with the young core they’re currently developing. Instead of building a solid foundation, they’re trying to skip steps and hope that the allure of playing in Hollywood will be enough to lure a big fish. If you build it properly, they will come.
The Lakers have to make a decision, are they going to continue to act like its 1997 and hope that the palm trees and pretty women will attract the best free agents the NBA have to offer, or they can join the 21st century and start building their team the right way. Expanding the analytics department, hire a coaching staff that will develop and embrace the way the modern game is being played. Let’s be clear, the NBA is a star driven league and usually the team with the best player in a playoff series will win, but the Lakers have to put a greater emphasis on building a foundation that will be attractive to stars.
Kobe Bryant is a legend of the highest order. At his pinnacle he carried the torch as the best player in the NBA and helped bring 5 championships to the Lakers. He’s one of the greatest players in the history of the sport, but he’s always been a mercurial talent, who had issues fitting in with teammates on and off the court. His issues with his co-workers have been well documented but he’s not the first superstar to rub his teammates the wrong way, but his ability to affect the game always superseded his conduct. His skills are diminished and he’s a broken shell of his former self, those are the reason that superstars don’t want to play with Kobe Bryant, and by proxy the Lakers. All reports say that Kobe said great things during the free agent pitch to LaMarcus Aldridge, but his mere presence on the team is a deterrent for free agents.
The Lakers had a “good” off-season by accident. After being crippled by the canceled Chris Paul trade the Lakers haven’t seriously contended, and Dwight Howard leaving over 30 million dollars on the table, the Lakers haven’t been serious contenders. But with their recent draft picks, especially D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle, the Lakers seem to be on a path to rebuilding. Many have laughed at the acquisitions of Roy Hibbert and Brandon Bass, but getting solid players on short deals have greased the skids for them to have cap space in 2016 to make moves to improve the team. The Lakers and their fans have to be PATIENT and build a team that will be desirable to superstars and role players. Slow and steady wins the race and even though they were the butt of jokes during the first week of free agency, they seemed to have started to turn their cruise ship slightly in the right direction.