There was once a time when Kobe Bryant was lauded as the best player on the planet. Those who argued any differently were usually reminded of his ring count and countless exploits. Funny thing is that wasn’t all that long ago. However in a what have you done for me lately society we tend to only remember the last image witnessed.
When KB24 requested to be traded the Lakers did him one better and traded for Pau Gasol. Two new banners hanging in Staples later and Kobe’s angst was settled. Still you get the feeling that Jim Buss must have taken Kobe’s now infamous tirades to heart.
This offseason has seen the slow transition of power from Dr. Buss to his son Jim go from gradual to nearly immediate.
Jim Buss has his fingerprints all over the hiring of Mike Brown. Coincidently enough, if you dusted Buss’ phone for prints chances are you wouldn’t find his digits have done much dialing of Bryant’s number.
Now that Bryant has slid all the way down to #6 in CBS Sports’ rankings I guess Jim Buss doesn’t feel as if he has to jump at Bryant’s every whim.
Kobe was kept in the dark on the coaching hire when common sense dictated he should have at least been notified at the least if not consulted from the jump. The manner in which Jim Buss has alienated longtime employees such as Ronnie Lester and Brian Shaw doesn’t bode well for those that were hired before his ascension to the family throne.
Having recently hung a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar under the age column in his bio, Bryant is headed into the twilight years of his NBA career. There are no secrets that Jim Buss is banking on Andrew Bynum to be the future of the franchise. Supposedly Bynum was his guy from day one. When other teams came calling about Bynum amid the Bryant trade demands the Lakers turned a deaf ear to all solicitors. For good measure Drew was given a hefty contract.
All signs point to Buss building around Bynum while simply allowing Kobe to play out his contract without any concern for keeping his best player pleased.
Jim Buss is playing a dangerous game. His selfish desire to leave an indelible mark on the Lakers could come at a cost. We saw how unmotivated this veteran team was last season. The last thing you want to do as management is to further frustrate a veteran bunch. That is a sure fire way to ensure another lackluster effort.
Many are ready to write the Lakers off. The rising young squads of the NBA have grabbed a lot of attention in the last year. While the hype speaks loudly the screaming truth cannot be ignored – veteran teams will always have an advantage in this league. Just look at the newly crowned Mavericks as proof of that.
Jim Buss might look at Kobe and only see a player sliding down the rankings. But if he’s using CBS as a measuring stick then he’ll notice his teams also boasts of another top 10 talent – Gasol.
Keeping the core of this team happy and healthy will be very important whenever the next season begins. Bryant’s silence on the Brown hiring was just a warning. Truth is Kobe could well have not been speaking on behalf of his teammates. So far we’ve learned that communication is not one of Jim Buss’ strong suits. For his sake let’s hope he knows he’ll have to take a different approach once the lockout is lifted.
If not then we could be looking at an unfortunate ending to one of the great careers in NBA history.