So, what exactly should the Lakers say to the gracious basketball gods after receiving this latest bit of bad news? How about: Tank you very much?
Kobe Bryant suffered a broken bone in his knee the other day in Memphis, and it’ll keep him out of action only four to six weeks, meaning it is far from career-threatening. This means the Lakers finally have their excuse to pull the plug on a season that looks lost anyway and begin to salvage that $48 million contract extension they gave Kobe, in good faith, before they had to.
There’s really no other way to respond or react to his second significant injury in eight months but to chalk it up to one of those years and start moving in another direction. That means putting Pau Gasol up for auction, getting what you can while you can and sinking as far in the West as possible, while telling Kobe to rest up and stay healthy for next season.
What the Lakers don’t understand is the gods are working with them, not against them. By taking Kobe away from the Lakers for a short period of time, the Lakers are in position to act now and benefit later. Or are the Lakers too blind to see the wink-wink and feel the elbow dig in their ribs? Can’t they take a hint? Do they not want a reasonable shot at getting Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins or Julius Randle, among others?
The Lakers have had it good with transcendent stars. The four-decades progression is the envy of the NBA: West, Baylor, Wilt, Kareem, Magic, Worthy, Shaq, Kobe. And while some of those legends were obtained with some good old-fashioned snookery, the best way for them to find the next star is through the draft. And wouldn’t you know it, the next draft might be the best since 2003, when Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and LeBron James crashed the league.
As luck would have it, all of those four can be free agents this summer, although the Lakers’ chances of getting any of them are slimmer than the team’s point guard position. The only player who’d make a major difference is LeBron, and it would be a seismic shock if he left the Heat for a Lakers team that, aside from an old Kobe, will be stripped of assets.
By finishing among the worst teams in the league, the Lakers wouldn’t lose any goodwill among their fans. They know what’s going on. Most probably would welcome the chance to bottom out without feeling much pain at all, then starting fresh right away. Also, understand that the Lakers’ first-round pick in 2015 is top-five protected to the Suns (for the Steve Nash deal), making the urgency of utilizing the upcoming draft even greater.
So, it’s an easy call. The season was a wash with or without Kobe, especially in a conference so deep and talented. Nash is out, Steve Blake is out, and now Kobe is out. Time for the Lakers to check out. They should shut Kobe down for the year, start buyout talks with Nash (who’s owed another year on his contract) and get young legs or a first-rounder if possible at the trade deadline for Gasol, who becomes a free agent this summer and isn’t exactly thrilled about being coached another season by Mike D’Antoni.
They have an excuse, and now they need a plan, and it doesn’t take a genius to draw up the blueprint. All it’ll take is a lousy season, which is bound to happen anyway.