Jim Buss sat down with Eric Pincus of the LA Times for a wide ranging interview on Thursday and provided plenty of insight on all things Lakers. Pincus’ entire interview is well worth your time as the Lakers’ part-owner and top executive on the basketball side takes us behind the curtain on where his mindset is heading into a critical season in the team’s rebuild.
And while Buss’ thoughts on D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, and more deserve your attention, the most intriguing part of their discussion, at least for me, relates to none other than Kobe Bryant, his future with the team, and whether this upcoming season may be the superstar’s last:
“We’re going to approach it like it is, but that doesn’t mean it is,” Buss said of Bryant. “I’m not going to sit there and say, ‘This is it, Kobe, you’re done,’ because it’s not my decision, it’s his decision.”
While this seems like the politic answer, Buss does elaborate further:
So is this Bryant’s final year with the team? “My arms are like this,” Buss said, holding his arms wide open, about Bryant’s future.
“He just has to know, at that age, and that many miles on you, what is your role? 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.”
This is the first time anyone within the Lakers’ organization has ever even hinted at there being any sort of conditions for Kobe returning or that he might need to accept a reduced role if he does want to return. And, frankly, it’s good to hear the organization is taking this approach.
I, like many other Lakers’ fans, have immense and total respect for Kobe, what he has provided the franchise over the course of his career, and how much he means to the city of Los Angeles. There are no caveats that come with that statement, no qualifiers.
But, as the old saying goes, father time is undefeated. The Lakers, at some point, will move on from Kobe to the next era of Lakers’ basketball. That transition will be one which involves discussions with Kobe, but the terms of that transition won’t just be set by the franchise icon. The front office and the coaches will have a say in those terms and Kobe will likely have to accept them.
How those conversations go remains to be seen and, of course, there may not even be much to say. Kobe could easily tell the front office he’s not interested in returning at all, essentially ending the need to have any sort of talk which could be uncomfortable for both sides. I mean, Kobe could easily follow through on what he told Jerry Colangelo and want to ride off into the sunset for Team USA at the Rio Olympics.
But, if that’s not the case and there is more Lakers’ basketball in him, it’s good to hear that Buss is prepared to talk with Kobe about what (Buss) and the rest of the organization want that to look like rather than it only being what Kobe wants it to. That won’t be an easy conversation to have, but props to Buss for seemingly being ready to have it.