Kobe Bryant will be going into his 20th NBA season with the Lakers looking to rebound from back-to-back disgraceful seasons. The team is clearly in rebuild mode now, so the question is how Bryant fits into this plan? Well, Jim Buss weighed in on that and pretty much said the decision isn’t as clear cut as we all would believe it to be.
“He just has to know, at that age, and that many miles on you, what is your role?” Buss told the LA times. “We’ll explain the role, and if he still wants to do that and that’s how he wants to go out, that’s fine with me.”
That’s pretty darn interesting. First and foremost, Laker Nation was most likely in an uproar following those comments. How could you say such things about the beloved Bryant, who has brought that city so much success and made rooting for the Lakers such an invigorating experience? To hint that you’d consider not bringing him back on board if he failed to acquiesce to management sounds egregious, right?
Not so fast. With three consecutive season-ending injuries, it’s pretty clear that Bryant is no longer capable of carrying a team by himself. At the age of 37, Bryant shouldn’t be the focal point and that includes playing less minutes. The keys to the offense should be relinquished to D’Angelo Russell, assuming he’s ready for the grand stage, and they obviously need a player on the other end who’s well-equipped to guard the opposing teams best offensive threat.
However, even with all of that said, it’s important to mention that Buss not might have been wrong with what he said, but he did make a mistake. The fact that he was the person to spew these comments ought to make fans cringe.
This is the same person who chose Mike D’Antoni over Phil Jackson when the Lakers had a coaching vacancy following a 1-4 start in the 2013-14 season. What makes this a tough pill to swallow is how poorly handled this situation was. Dwight Howard actually told them he preferred Jackson and that might’ve actually been all they needed to keep him in LA. Instead, Buss elected to go with an unproven coach who was allergic to defense in an attempt to rekindle and Steve Nash-D’Antoni relationship; it ended up being a colossal failure. He doesn’t exactly have the best rap sheet.
If you’re Buss, there’s no room to say things like this. When you’ve tarnished the Lakers brand as much as he has, the best option is refrain from making comments like this that’ll bring you an exorbitant amount of publicity.
He has to be held accountable for the Lakers’ woes the past few seasons. The franchise is no longer the dream place to play anymore. You can assert Bryant has a level of culpability in that regard, but there’s no way to ignore that no one wants to play for a franchise that isn’t being run the right way. If they want to return back to elite status in the NBA, the grass has to magically become greener on the other side. Is it in the process of favorably changing color?
The team has exuded ineptitude for far too long and it’s time for the front office to at least pretend they know what they’re doing. Although it might not appease the spoiled fan base that has seen their team win 16 titles and corral more conference victories than any other team in NBA history, rebuilding is essential to bringing back the Hollywood purple and gold glory.
Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson will all be under intense scrutiny this season with all eyes being on their growth and maturation. If the future is bright for the Lakers, the emergence of these young players is a huge part of that recipe.
Bryant is a five-time champion and a future Hall of Famer, but it’s difficult to ignore the Father Time factor — it happens to everyone. He should be more than willing to take a decreased role, which might attract free agents. But Jim Buss shouldn’t be the one talking on this matter. In fact, Jeanie Buss might be a better option at the helm for the Lakers, but that’s a subject for another day.