It was a nightmare season. There’s no denying that. But Kobe Bryant is making it very clear that he thinks the Lakers’ current core has it in them to win a champion.
And while that makes for your run-of-the-mill, feel-good statement, the harshness of the new collective bargaining agreement will make ‘one more year’ cost one pretty penny – like potentially 80 million dollars worth of pretty little pennies.
“It’s a tough call to make,” said Bryant. “But then again, it is one more year. One more year. That’s how I look at it. One more year of this thing.”
“Our contracts are ending. … Pau [Gasol] is up after next year. Hopefully, we get Dwight [Howard] locked up so he’s here for a while and the future is kind of set already. So let’s take a crack at this thing.”
It’s a hard sell after such a tumultuous start in LA last season, but Bryant insists the team “finally figured it out” and that should Steve Nash return healthy, alongside Howard and Gasol “we will win a championship, no doubt about it.”
We know what we need to do,” Bryant said. “We know what that rhythm feels like. To break that apart and now have to start fresh wouldn’t make sense.
And while rumors of a potential Gasol trade or amnesty are picking up steam, Howard remains the biggest unknown for the Lakers moving forward.
Because despite Howard’s plummeting stock in the public eye over the last two years and his recent ejection that solicited national attention, he will have suitors.
Whether it be Dallas, Atlanta or Houston, someone will make Howard a max-contract player. And it will ultimately force LA’s hand this offseason should he deserve the salary of a franchise centerpiece or not.
“I hope he [returns],” Bryant said. “It’s just a matter of what he feels in his heart and what he wants to do. He kind of has reached a crossroads in his career. I think Los Angeles is a perfect spot for him to assert himself and put his foot down and have his career really take off and be what it should be. There is no better place for centers to be than Los Angeles.
“I will talk to him. Bring him out to the house, chill with him a little bit and watch another cartoon movie or something. We’ll have a good time.”
The Lakers could have as many as seven free agents in Metta World Peace, Antawn Jamison, Devin Ebanks, Earl Clark, Darius Morris, Andrew Goudelock and Howard, as well as an amnesty clause that’s just begging to be used.
This obviously makes it extremely difficult to gauge what LA’s roster could look like next season.
That said, few players have as much pull in an organization as Bryant. So make no mistake – his voice will be heard and heeded.