Free Agency, the Future, & the Kobe Conundrum

Daniel Rapaport —  September 26, 2013

Paul George is twenty-three years old and he’s ready to break out. His progression up to this point has been steady if not remarkable, burgeoning from a hyper-athletic project to one of the league’s most versatile all-stars. In the most marquee of match-ups, PG24 didn’t back down from LeBron James one inch and earned the respect of this generation’s greatest player. It’s natural, really, for Laker fans to be sauntering over George, whose eclectic fashion sense suggests he’s ready for the LA spotlight. And after this season, Paul George’s rookie contract will expire. In an interview over the summer, George expressed that it would be tough to “say no to Kobe, man” because it’d be “playing at home” (George is from Palmdale). In a sense, Paul George and the cap-happy Lakers are a perfect match.

But today, Paul George agreed to the maximum contract extension, a deal that will keep him in the Midwest for another 5-years and pay him a handsome $80 million. His justification was a PR masterpiece, citing loyalty and the ability to win championships in Indiana (he’s right, also. I maintain that if Roy Hibbert is on the floor for the last play in Game 1, Indiana takes the series). But what’s more, I don’t think Paul George has any interest in spending the prime of his career as a second fiddle to a certain Kobe Bean Bryant. He doesn’t want to be a second option, nor should he- dude has superstar written all over him. He doesn’t want to spend crunch time in the corner as a never used decoy to the ever-present Kobe iso. He would, however, jump at the prospect of becoming the face of the Los Angeles Lakers. Problem is, there already is a face of the Los Angeles Lakers, a man whose commitment to stay on top rivals that of a despotic dictator. And this face makes $10 million more per year than anyone else and has been documented in saying that he’s extremely hesitant to accept a drastic pay cut despite his age and the team’s sticky situation.

Let’s pull the band-aid off quick. I’ve bit my tongue countless times the instant before this harsh truth came out, but I’m ready to finally accept reality:

Kobe Bryant is the Lakers’ biggest obstacle in recruiting free agents. And despite the organic rise of the Oklahoma City Thunder (they drafted KD, RussWest, and Harden back-to-back years. Think about that for a second.), landing coveted free agents is the fastest path to competing for championships. Just ask Pat Riley and Micky Arison.

Before you label me a Kobe hater, please remember that Kobe is my absolute favorite basketball player. I don’t believe the NBA has ever seen a harder worker or more competitive player. That being said,  Kobe has the third highest usage rate in the NBA, trailing only Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony, who both tread dangerously close to gunner status. That’s curious for someone entering their 18th year, especially when you consider the ages of the other members of the top 5 in terms of usage rate: Carmelo is 29, Westbrook is 24, Kyrie Irving is 21 (!!!), and John Wall is 23. Clearly, Kobe’s not ready to accept the second-dog status that he might need to embrace in order to catch MJ at 6.

During the back-to-back title and three finals in a row run of ’08-’10, Kobe was the best player in the league because not only did he have that mamba mentality, but he seemed to truly trust his teammates. At his best, Kobe tip-toes the line beautifully between a cold-blooded scorer and one of the very best passers in the league. We all know that if he wanted, Kobe could average 10 dimes a game because we’ve seen stretches where he’s done exactly that and it seems to require little extra effort. But when things got tough this season, Kobe seemed to revert to his old alpha-dog ways to the point where Dwight Howard literally turned down being the face of the franchise because, well, he couldn’t deal with the pressure of LA, the massively high expectations, and, yep, #24.

Kobe’s not afraid to absolutely rip a teammate to shreds, no matter if he’s a cocky rookie or the most established veteran. When Dwight signed with the Lakers, Kobe was quick to squash any notion that he’d hand the baton off in typical Kobe fashion (that video never ceases to amaze me. The thought of Dwight passing up more money and the chance to lead the Lakers to head somewhere else just wasn’t even in the conversation. Like, Kobe would have laughed at you that day if you told him that Dwight Howard would enter the 2013-2014 season as a Houston Rocket. The Lakers were eventually going to be Dwight’s because Dwight was going to re-sign. Duh.). What makes you think he’ll be willing to hand the reins off this time ’round? And would you want to have to follow in the footsteps of Kobe, arguably the greatest Laker of all time (yes, I’m aware of your existence, Mr. Johnson), 15-time all star, 2-time Finals MVP, 2-time scoring champ, 11-time first team all-NBA, etc.

The only conceivable scenario in which I could see Kobe accepting beta-dog status is if the Lakers somehow manage to bring in an established superstar who’s undeniably better than Kobe today. Not someone who has the potential to be better than Kobe, someone who is better than Kobe. At the training camp for the 1992 Dream Team, everyone was curious to see who was going to snatch team-leader status. And the stories go that when Magic Johnson saw just how incredible Michael Jordan was, he realized that Michael was the better player and he was going to lead and that was that. Problem is, assuming that Kobe comes back from his injury (do y’all have any doubts?! He’s Kobe and this is an injury, we always knows who wins those battles…) Kobe is still a fringe top-5/surefire top-10 NBA player, so those types are few and far between.

A certain LBJ comes to mind.

LeBron is on top of the world, having finally overcome the PR nightmare that was the Decision. Miami won 66 games last year, including 27 straight, and Drake sits courtside at every game. I just can’t see him taking the risk of leaving Miami at this point in his career. Chris Paul is Mr. Clipper. And Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are best friends and are both yet to see their 25th birthday. They’re not going anywhere.

And then there’s Carmelo. He’s undoubtedly searching for his Miami, a place where he can forget about the selfish stuff and win the championships he needs to cement himself as an all-timer. Kobe and Carmelo have, despite both holding reputations around the league as score-first guys who sometimes forget that their teammates are indeed NBA players, played beautifully alongside each other for Team USA. They’re close friends. Just like Paul George, it seems right.

And just like Paul George, Carmelo assured New Yorkers that he’s not going anywhere. The list of potential players for Kobe to hand the baton to is shrinking by the day. But hey, we can still hold out hope for Kyrie. We can hold out hope that Kobe will contact the best young point guard in the league and tell him that LA is a completely different world than Cleveland, a place where he can become a global icon. We’ll hope that he’ll tell Kyrie that if he comes to LA, the squad is his- that Kobe is ready to pass the baton because he knows that’s the only feasible way the team can win a championship. But if we’re being completely honest with ourselves, Kyrie very well might tell Cleveland that he’s not going to pull a LeBron, that he’s going to bring the ring that Dan Gilbert so obnoxiously guaranteed and that the city deserves. He could decide that he wants to create his own legacy and not follow in the impossible-to-fulfill footsteps of Kobe Bryant.

Just like Paul George and Carmelo.

Sigh.

Daniel Rapaport

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41 responses to Free Agency, the Future, & the Kobe Conundrum

  1. Is FB&G slowly turning into Lakers Nation? Is Darius’s lack of day-to-day involvement responsible for this (admittedly just my perception) slight drop in quality recently? I ask because I truly love this site, but articles like these seem to violate many of the principles that have guided this site ever since Darius took over, and evolved this blog into one of the pre-eminent sources of Lakers analysis and commentary since its crude beginnings under Kurt.

    I feel you never would have seen an article like this here a year or even 6 months ago. Comment policy usually forbids us from the typical FA/trade speculation that runs rampant on other blogs, and the justification for such was pretty sound in my opinion. And if the authors never brought it up, why would it be relevant to discuss in the response section?

    Now, we have seen this site has been slowly taken under by what has plagued so many other great blogs. SSR has Andrew Garrison, Mambino, and Ben Rosales… FB&G now has Daniel Rappaport. Is this the start of something much worse?

  2. this is not a problem with Kobe. it’s a problem with the other players who value things other than winning more than winning.

    it’s just how it is and it’s something that the team and fans must bear. it’s not anyone’s fault, however. there doesn’t need to be a solution. i only want players who aren’t worried about such petty issues. i want Kobe to be the competitive jerk that he is on the court. that’s why he’s an alltime great and these other players are second-rate.

    i’m also glad that Dwight left. it’s not that i don’t appreciate his talent, it’s that i don’t appreciate his lack of cooperation, his insistance to be a postup player when it’s not in his skillset, his love of his comfort over winning, and his two-faced fake-smile attitude, not to mention his lockerrroom poison. we don’t need that kind of player, no matter how good they are. that is not how championships are won.

    Kobe doesn’t need to be an easy guy to like(at least on the court). he needs to be a guy who competes, which automatically involces conflict. any player without the stomach to compete HARD and EFFECTIVELY needs to go, regardless of talent. last year in the playoffs, what game did Dwight Howard Franchise Player force a win in, just because he refused to lose?

  3. They need a player better than Kobe period or a young player on Kobe’s level. It’s not a matter of Kobe hogging the ball as it is the reality that Kobe is old and can’t play basketball forever. Personally I thought Pau was near Kobe’s level during the 08-10 run but they blew that team up after 2011 playoff loss and the Dwight situation didn’t work. Kobe’s window is basically over and short another miracle trade he’s not winning another title. People forget that those 09 and 10 titles were a gift from god tho. Back in 2007 it was pretty bleak.

  4. As I have said a few times, Kobe’s deal is up at the end of the season, and we have no idea whether or when he will be able to play, so this argument doesn’t work very well.

    Also, here’s Darius from the other thread:

    George & Wall got max extensions from their teams *before* they entered free agency. No player who has not yet had their first big contract is turning down that money. This is why I always saw George and Wall, specifically, as pipe dreams for the Lakers. If their current teams offered huge paydays, they were going to take them — especially if they came before they hit RFA status.

  5. First off, I find it hilarious that one commenter thinks there’s a “decline” in the site simply because this single post ran. I still read — and in many cases proof — every post that runs on this site so my “involvement” is as strong as ever, even if I’m not the person writing a specific post.

    I’d add that the reason a post like this may not have ran “a year or even six months” ago can easily be attributed to the fact that in the last year Kobe has gone from talk of “retiring soon” to playing for “at least another 3 years” while strongly sourced rumors place Dwight’s uneasiness with the timeline of when Kobe would “hand over” the franchise to him as one of the reasons he left the Lakers. Kobe is a fantastic player. He’s a legend and deserves the utmost respect for his past — and for his future — accomplishments. But this is the real world and his status as a Laker, whether some like it or not, will be a factor in recruiting free agents.

    I, for one, think he can be a positive in this regard down the line. I think his play this season and how he interacts with potential free agents down the line can shape how these things go. But Daniel is not alone in having reservations about Kobe’s presence being a potential hurdle in signing the team’s next “face of the franchise” in free agency. The K-Bros, both of whom are very respected and are two of the more straight forward and unbiased writers who cover this team, put out a column that questioned Kobe in a similar manner not to long ago.

  6. The problem of course is guys like George and Kyrie are coming off their rookie deals and their teams could match any offer we made. The only other option would be too sign the one year tender and leave 10 million on the table for the right to pick their team. Correct me if I am wrong but I don’t recall one top player ever doing that. If they are smart they will have negotiated an out in a few years like Durant and Love did. Then they can choose their team.

    As far as Carmelo is concerned, I don’t know if he’s the guy. He will be 30 next year. He will be eligible for a first year of 23 mil. Now Kobe and Nash and others have played at a high level into their 30’s but every one like them their are more like Mcgrady and Vince Carter who began to tail off. At 35 Carmelo would be would 30 mil like Kobe. It maybe better to sign 2 guys like maybe Deng and maybe Lowrey for not much more then you would spend on Carmelo. If Kobe has a few good years left, then it might make more sense.

  7. rr,
    You’re correct that nothing has been “proven” as of yet and Kobe’s deal is up at the end of the year. That said, the rhetoric from his camp and from the Lakers’ front office has been that he will retire a Laker and that this upcoming season isn’t his last year. Therefore, his presence will matter in terms of the future and in getting reinforcements on the roster. In that respect, it’s not off-base to wonder *how* it will matter or to declare how one thinks it will matter, even if it’s at this stage in the process.

    As an aside, people don’t have to agree with the author here. As I commented above, I think Kobe can have a positive influence on the recruitment process and that his presence won’t necessarily be a hindrance. But I’d also be lying if I said I had zero concerns in this area because that simply wouldn’t be true. I’ve always said that Gasol was the perfect complement to Kobe because he had elite level talent, a game that meshed well with Kobe’s, and a personality that was able to handle the daily ins and outs of being Kobe’s teammate (while playing such a key role in the success of the team). But I’ve also thought that Pau is pretty unique in this manner and that when recruiting the next superstar (who will likely need to be an “alpha” personality), things may not go as smoothly between he and Kobe. That may mean that Kobe has to adjust. I think he can do that, but questioning whether he does or not isn’t blasphemy.

  8. I don’t know who we can count on to come to LA and take the team over from Kobe. I don’t think there is any way LBJ comes. Kyrie is nice. We’ll see. Maybe Westbrook comes home and Love comes along too, but that is a few years in the future. I think the Lakers are doing the right thing in putting a respectable team out there, show FA’s that winning ain’t far off, and try to develop some young talent.

    My worry is if they start shelling out money to Melo, or pay Kobe more than $20m (and I think that might be too high) I think wins will get harder to come by. FA might not want to play with Kobe, but they for sure won’t come where there is no cap-space. Give Kobe too big a chunk of the cap space and the team will struggle. I’ll be interested to see what the cap situation will be for other teams. Who will have space to sign Kobe to a max? Bird rights are nice for a team if there is competition. Who will be competing for Kobe? Does Kobe sign with another team out of spite if he dislikes a low Lakers’ offer? How badly does he want a 6th ring. Time is running out on him. The owners are going to be here for a while. Another thing to think about is how much is Pau worth. Can he be had for $8m-$12 million? I believe LO and Metta were getting that sort of money and Pau is probably still worth more based on position alone.

    I wouldn’t quite call it chaos but there has been a lot going on in Lakerland for the last few seasons. I hope things settle down a bit in a season or two and we get to watch a team grow roots, develop and compete at the highest level.

  9. Daniel: “Let’s pull the band-aid off quick.” What exactly do you mean? Just let him walk entirely? Tell him to retire? Offer a low amount so he is forced to retire or leave? Let me know the plan there.
    Kobe: Everyone knows that I am a huge fan. However Kobe has always been hard to play along side of (for other superstars), and has always been hard to coach. Only one guy has been able to “mostly” control him. We do not have that guy now, and Kobe has only changed slightly, so I do not disagree that lack of relationship with KB contributed to the DH departure. The problem is, that I do not see a clear path without Kobe. As pointed out in a previous thread by rr, we just lost 2 of the best players in the league and some draft picks – all with nothing in return. Are we now going to jettison Kobe? Talk about scorched Earth. This would be a nuclear wasteland. Yes – you might sign a FA or two who wants to do his own thing, but that would be building on nothing. That is not the way to go. Miami already had Wade when they added the other 2. OKC did this through the draft. Ditto SA. Let’s not even talk about the PR and legacy nightmares. I would even accept those if I thought this might help anything – but where is the plan? Cap space is not the panacea to everything. Just ask the Wizards.

  10. Cloud: This site is just fine and Darius is still very involved. The commentary by the authors and the posters here is way better than most of the other Laker sites I have seen. I do not particularly agree with this article above, but so what – that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be here. I love Kobe – not everyone does. I think we should keep him – not everyone does. That’s what makes the site interesting.

    Of course when talking about other people – I don’t exactly love them or want to keep them : ) And people don’t have to agree with me either.

  11. Cloud and the rest of you,

    FB&G is a Blog, a place where thoughts and opinions are voiced. Dont attack the writer.. read… think…respond. Make valid points against the content of the article.

    Kobe is over the hill and approaching grandmas house rapidly. A leader is someone who makes everyone on the court better. Kobe doesnt, plain and simple. Money talks and Los Angeles has a lot of it, lets put our thinking caps on!

    Lebron to LA? yes please.

  12. Cloud,
    I’m sorry that you feel so strongly. I can assure you that Darius and I discussed this post at length before posting it… I’m also an 18 year-old college freshman, so your borderline personal comments to a kid aren’t well received on my end. I love your passion for the site, however, and it’s readers like you that make FB&G the premier Lakers site on the web. Be well, my friend.

    Robert, by pulling the band-aid-off quick, I was making a joke about how difficult it was for me to actually say the following phrase. Nothing to do with getting rid of Kobe, as that’s not what I want at all! I just hope he accepts the role he needs to for the future of this franchise.

  13. I think one thing that people are missing in this Kobe recruitment process is the Kobe mindset…Kobe has heard and will likely hear for the rest of his life about how Shaq carried him to 3 championships. Nevermind the fact that plenty of teams have co-stars that average 20ppg and just recently you can think of the Durant/Westbrooks, Iverson/Anthony…the point is he finally got a team and when the Heat pulled their Celtic impersonation with the big 3 (yes I know the Celtics got theirs through trades…real trades) everyone got on Lebron for having a stacked roster and running to a team instead of staying with one franchise…

    Time for a new paragraph….but I can’t see a Kobe looking for his last ring try to pull a Gary Payton (sorry it had to be said lol) and basically try to do anything to get “that” ring. For Gary he needed it for vindication and while Kobe will still be a star on any team he is on, does he really want to have to go through that again?

    Now of course we can reference last year when he had Howard and Nash as additions, but truth be told, despite the All Star appearances Nash was not the top guard and has not been a top 5 point guard for a while and we got a broke down Howard (thanks a lot Orlando). I think until Kobe gets that mindset like Shaq did in 2006 where he steps aside and lets the person in the wings take hold or say that is a role he wants to embrace then this is what we will get.

  14. I think it’s a fine post by a 18 year old freshmen. I would draft him top five if I had a blog team.

    As for Kobe we will see. If he holds out and hold UP the Lakers for $30 million then even the biggest fan(Robert) would have to be deeply disappointed and pessimistic in Kobe and the Lakers future .

  15. Kobe doesn’t need to step to the side. He needs real players around him who will step up and make it obvious that they are the present and future. If time and injury best him before another team mate does then it’s going to be a long stretch of sad times in Lakerland. You aren’t given the kingdom; you take it.

  16. As one of the contributors here, I would also like to add my support for Daniel. We don’t all need to be on the same page. We don’t want lock-step opinions. We like strong writing that throws out a challenge, that engenders debate. I think this article does that, and I particularly like the way it closes. Good stuff IMO and I’m as big a Kobe fan as anyone.

  17. Daniel,

    I thought your article was fine. Keep up the good work. I look forward to seeing more pieces from you.

  18. That said, the rhetoric from his camp and from the Lakers’ front office has been that he will retire a Laker and that this upcoming season isn’t his last year.

    Sure–what else are they going to say? Kobe made it clear last year that he wasn’t going to quit yet unless he has to.

    As far as the premise of the piece, first, DR talked a lot about Paul George, and suggested that George didn’t consider coming here because of Kobe. I find that premise highly, highly unlikely, and quoted you since your post responding to me in the other thread suggested that you would as well. If that is wrong, feel free to correct me.

    As to the larger idea, that Kobe’s personality will scare off FAs:

    1. You are right about Pau, and IMO the main reason it worked is that Pau will always be The Man in his country, and is a reflective sort for a jock, so is well-equipped to deal with Kobe’s presence here.
    2. I never said or suggested that there was anything “blasphemous” in this line of argument. But I am skeptical of it. I think in the case of the second-tier and lower FAs, the decision is usually made based on money and playing time. There are rare exceptions, like Farmar. In the case of the Elite Max FAs, it is generally made based on opportunity to win, since the money will be there anyway. You yourself covered the case of the RFA–which George was.

    But even if the scary-Kobe premise is true, Kobe will be 36 in August, is coming off a horrible injury, and it is unlikely that the Lakers will be a good team this year. Kobe is going to take a very large pay cut–period. Garnett did. Duncan did. Nowitzki will. As to the face of the team issue, if James by some miracle actually wants to come here, Kobe will have no choice but to step aside, and there are no other franchise anchors out there. If the worry is that Kobe will scare off Kevin Love and/or Marc Gasol in 2015…well, OK, but I think if those guys really want to be Lakers, they will be.

    As to the Cloud/DR thing, since the site is free, and the writers work for free, excessive criticism is very bad form. OTOH, I don’t think DR’s youth should be in the discussion mix, either. If his stuff is going to be posted in the same place as Darius’, Murphy’s et al, then he should be evaluated as a site writer, not as an 18-year-old.

  19. Correction–George would have been a RFA in 14.

  20. I don’t know if we will get a top level talent like lebron but I do like the idea of being more like a team like the bulls or Pacers if we can sign additional guys like Deng, Lowry, Marion, Pierce?, Granger, Gortat, Oden?

    to add to a core of resigned guys from this year – kobe, gasol, farmar, and hill – we could be a much deeper team than we have in a long time.

    To get guys like lebron you need to bottom out or be in a very specific situation like houston and miami have had where your mix of cap space and cheap talent works perfectly.

    Remember other teams have been building for like 5 years to catch up with us and these other teams are now stacked at the right time

    I really wouldnt mind just seeing kobe get some more records retire and then we rebuild.

    Ive been a fan since I was 12 and ive essentially seen the lakers in the finals in half the time since then .. we have been incredibly lucky to have had the success we have had for so long.

  21. when Kobe is ready to retire or when another player steps up and takes charge because he can, i think Kobe will happily step aside.

    was Howard really capable of establishing dominance over the team? only through passive-aggressive behavior, not through his performance on the court when the chips were down.

    Kobe should revel in his power because it’s fleeting. he needs to grab all the glory possible, because the glory is in winning and winning is the glory of the team. any other player on the team who can’t see that is an enemy in disguise. any free agent who doesn’t want to be a part of that just doesn’t want to be on the Lakers. it’s not about Kobe.

  22. LT mitchell September 26, 2013 at 9:18 pm
    Your comment will appear after being approved.
    Daniel,

    Under Brian Shaw, Paul George adapted Kobe’s practice routine last year. Everything that Paul George has said publicly regarding Kobe suggests he has tremendous amount of respect for Kobe and would love the opportunity to play with him. Yet, somehow, you make a giant leap and argue the exact opposite. There is clearly no evidence for your notion that George would not want to play with Kobe, except of course, your incredible mind reading abilities.

    If you are going to criticize Kobe’s usage rate last year, please, add some context. Kobe turned back the clock and played like an MVP candidate last season while dealing with an absurd amount of injuries to his teammates as well as a coaching change. A high usage rate is to be expected. Comparing Kobe’s usage rate to Westbrook and Carmelo, two of the top players at their respective positions, does not strengthen your argument. When Nash was healthy enough to play, Nash was given every opportunity to be the main playmaker for this team, but he simply was not getting it done. Defenses trapped him whenever he initiated the P&R and he did not have the speed to turn the corner and make defenses pay. That’s when Kobe decided to take over the PG duties, and the offense improved as a result. He took over PG duties, including guarding PG’s, to help the team win….not because he refused to relinquish his alpha status.

  23. Kings ready to re-up Cousins–4/62 through 2018.

  24. I do not believe in the premise that Free Agents do not want to be in LA because of Kobe. For weak-willed individuals, sure. But for the hard-nosed guys who want to win, they know how they can help Kobe.

    Continuing my 2015 suspicion, this is how I would expect our next summer to be:

    1. Make a pitch to Lebron AND Melo. Get neither.
    2. Rudy Gay, Danny Granger and Luol Deng – in that order, but only 1.
    3. Farmar re-upped.
    4. Jordan Hill re-upped.
    5. Pau gasol re-upped.
    6. Kobe re-upped.

    Then again the cap holds for Pau and Kobe are in play so Kobe and Pau would have to be given the roadmap to 2014 before they realistically talk to any other FA. Kobe and Pau would remain mum on their free agent status, I suspect Pau will be given an extension mid-year.

    The dire need for the starting SF is so glaring. For the last 2 seasons, we’ve had MWP cover it. Next season, expect one of Gay, Granger or Deng to be at the wing. All three can slide up to a stretch-four role at times and it will play to MDA’s strengths. During these times Kobe will be the team’s SF as Young or Nash would assume the role of SG in the offense.

    The numbers don’t quite add up yet but if the Lakers are able to spend less than 40 million on Kobe, Pau, Hill, Farmar plus SF then its safe to say we have 1 more reload in 2015 when Nash comes off the books.

    2014:
    Nash / Farmar
    Kobe / Young
    SF (Gay, Granger or Deng)
    Hill
    Gasol

    2015:
    Farmar
    Kobe
    SF
    Kevin Love ?
    Gasol / Hill

  25. hey daniel; when i was young i saw the movie Jaws and to this very day am afraid to go in the water. any water connected to the pacific ocean. altho the movie took place off the coast of the atlantic ocean, great whites and in particular “jaws” painted a vivid and everlasting image in my head, forever and ever. not to mention the murky waters pretty much up and down the coast of california.

    while on the subject of conjectural conundrums of the kobe vs free agency aftermarket; it’s true; who dares to swim in chartered “kobe” waters given present circumstances?

    young man, keep up the good work. think you’re on to something here.

    Go Lakers

  26. No man, no. Only Phil can save us. Phil can make wilted flowers bloom again. He can make Unicorns appear out of thin air. He is able to leap the tallest buildings in a single bound – bad hip and all. Only Phil… only Phil….

  27. mud,
    “ …the glory is in winning and winning is the glory of the team. any other player on the team who can’t see that is an enemy in disguise. any free agent who doesn’t want to be a part of that just doesn’t want to be on the Lakers. it’s not about Kobe.´´
    _____
    I couldn´t agree more!!

  28. In real news… It looks that my dream that SacTown would let Cousins leave if someone offered the RFA the max has been shot down… The Kings have offered him the max. So it looks like the Lakers will be fielding the team I figured next season… LeBron, Carmelo, and Rudy Gay.

  29. When I read complaints about Howard’s attitude and him not being the type of player Kobe would defer to it makes me pause. When LeBron went to Miami he was not the player he is now. He was coming off a disappointing year where his team was favored to win it all going into the playoffs only to flame out in the second round. Many even believe he mailed in at the end of that Boston series because he couldn’t handle the pressure.

    He became the player he is now because Riley and Wade were patient with him. They gave him the space and support to develop. Wade deferred to him from day one. Yes, there were some bumps in the road with that. But credit Wade for seeing the big picture. Riley and Wade never required LeBron to “take it” from Wade. They focused the team around him first and then held him accountable for stepping up. They actually believed in LeBron.

    No, its not the exact same situation with Dwight. I just think the belief that since Howard wasn’t ready he would never become ready is flawed. That is where great leadership from management and older players comes in. Talented players are usually made into great players because of the support system a team puts around them. Waiting on Kobe to deem a another player worthy of deferring to is futile (its not happening). Instead we need to ask if the Lakers are still an organization where all star players feel they can go and become legendary players. Right now I don’t think so. That cannot all be laid at Kobe’s feet.

    But who really wants to have to fight a first ballot HOFer for team leadership?

  30. @Aaron: lmao.

  31. Daniel: perfectly reasonable argument, nicely laid out. Kudos to you for a good read. (P.S. I got your back: my Laker loving 18 year old son is a freshman at UCSB.)

  32. basketball is COMPETITION.
    it is not AYSO soccer. it’s not some pc feel-good love-fest. it’s about making those that compete against you miserable. it’s about making the opponent give up and cry. Dwight didn’t need a softer touch. he needed something that comes from inside, the desire to compete. can he develope this? sure! maybe…when he had his best chance, with Kobe out, he played his weakest ball. he was dominated by a guy called soft, Pau Gasol, years ago. it’s probably not in his makeup to dominate a team when there is another strong personality around, because the D12 we saw wilted under pressure.

    did Magic wait for Kareem to bow out? no. he took over the VERY first chance he got, even getting rid of the coach after forcing the Lakers to a title. did West or Baylor wait to dominate? no. Baylor took them to the championship in his rookie season, even though the Lakers were a last place team the year before. West didn’t just bow down to Baylor when he came into the league. he turned on the afterburners. Kobe himself pushed the MDE to the edge, dominating him, so that even Shaq had to call him “my hero”, even in the beginning of their feud/power struggle.

    we don’t need a franchise player who won’t force the issue. that’s what role players are for. it doesn’t matter how talented, a role player is anyone who is not willing to be unpopular in the name of competition. the Lakers won’t have any trouble finding role players. finding a true franchise player is more difficult, because there really aren’t that many. Kobe isn’t scaring away anyone who fits that title. that person would relish the opportunity to take the mantle from one of the alltime greats.

  33. Mud,

    That sounds all well and good, but look around. No star wants to come to L.A. where Kobe is a saint and try to “take” the crown from him. It’s a losing proposition. Why lock horns every night for control of a team when one can go somewhere else more welcoming? That’s not being weak. That’s being smart.

    Did Magic take over? Or did Kareem aid his rise by realizing he could no longer be the number one guy anymore? I don’t remember Tim Duncan “taking it” from David Robinson. I remember Robinson mentoring him and helping to develop Tim along with Pop’s leadership. Tim turned around and did the same thing with Parker. That’s how is should work.

    There is enough competition on the other side of the floor. Why should one compete with the other side of their own locker room as well?

  34. T Rogers: Great Post at 11:13
    “That is where great leadership from management and older players comes in. Talented players are usually made into great players because of the support system a team puts around them.”
    I know you did not intend to – but you have exceeded rr and taken me yet another new low.
    MannyP: I think you are on to something: Only Phil has coached Kobe to the Finals; Only Phil has taken us to he Finals in the past 22 years; Only Phil has 11 rings; Only Phil has 13 trips to the Finals; Only Phil coached MJ to a ring; He is a pretty good coach I would say. But why are we talking about Phil? Who is going to write the D’Antoni Alert this year?

  35. Apologies Robert. I actually thought about you as I was typing out that part of management.

  36. You are so right Robert. Shaq, Kobe, Gasol and the other players had nothing to do with going to the finals. It was all Phil. Certain Mitch and Jim (yes, your archnemesis) had nothing to do with drafting, trading and signing guys. It was all Phil. Hell, even Dr. Buss had nothing to do with out. It was all Phil. I see why Jeannie likes him so much. He is perfect. Long live Phil.

  37. Kobe’s personality is part of the bigger picture with the Lakers, and clearly it contributed to Howard’s departure. But, I would give the argument more credence if Howard had walked after a 57-25, loss-in-the-WCF type-season than after the season that the team actually produced.

    Looking ahead:

    If James actually wanted to be here, he would eclipse Kobe by definition.
    I think Anthony will come here partly because of Kobe, if he actually comes.
    I don’t see guys like Deng or Lowry being scared off by Kobe. They will come here if the money is right and they think the team can win.
    Utah would match any offer to Favors. Same is probably true for Detroit and Monroe. Cleveland will not allow Irving to walk.
    If the Lakers try to get Dirk or Pierce and be Brooklyn West, I don’t see Kobe being a negative factor for them.

    So, I think we are talking Kevin Love and Marc Gasol in 2015, as I said. Marc has undoubtedly heard some stuff from Pau on the subject, and Love probably has too, as part of the NBA-LA grapevine.

  38. Players who match Kobe’s intensity are what the Lakers need. The players that helped them to their last two c’ships were very intense and focused. Lamar, Metta, Trevor Ariza, Pau. Shannon Brown. Kobe led these guys and they matched his intensity. They saw an opportunity to win and seized it.

    Dwight Howard may learn how to focus and lose himself in the moment one day. But he only went through the motions as a Laker. He has yet to fully grasp what professional sports are about. You don’t get paid to play, you are paid to win in the pro ranks. Thus the disconnect between him and the Mamba. Kobe will nurture and accept and i wiuld daresay defer to, anyone who matches his intensity. It’s the one thing that he truly respects about other players. Dwight hasn’t found that yet.

  39. ..and ultimately, Kenny T comes around to my way of thinking….

  40. Kenny T,

    Howard is a 3 time DPOY who led his team to the Finals. He already proved he had the focus and intensity neccessary to be a winner before coming to Los Angeles. And let’s not forget he was dealing two major inuries for most of last season. Is he a diva? Most definitely. But most players of his caliber are. LeBon was and still is.

    It’s one thing to lead players like Shannon Brown and the wonderfully inconsistent Lamar Odom. Kobe has done that well. It is another thing to turn over the keys to another start player. I suspect that will be very hard for Kobe.

  41. Daniel, I think your comments were excellent and well thought out. Can’t wait for your next article. Go lakers