Kobe sat, confident in his stature, but annoyance in his words. As he talked, you could feel the anger he felt, a powerful man in a powerless situation. Out of his control was the healing process his knee needed. Out of his control was the free fall the Lakers roster has been on.
But Bryant’s words were powerful. They reflected how fall the Lakers had fallen. Gone have been the days as a title contender, now filled with talks of lottery instead of talks of trophies. Worse yet, the state of turmoil in the Lakers front office, which was regarded once as the benchmark of NBA front offices, is nearing a tipping point. Is Jim Buss or sister Jeanie Buss in charge? How much say does Mitch Kupchak still have? Does Phil Jackson fit in anywhere? Is Mike D’Antoni’s job safe?
The Lakers, specifically Kupchak, have stated the team has a plan. The plan has been reportedly rumored to either include going hard after LeBron James, offering a max deal to Carmelo Anthony, and even possibly preparing a deal for Kevin Love.
For the first time in decades, the Lakers are in a state of flux. Bryant is the most powerful man in the Lakers organization, and that’s not how it should be. He has an entire fanbase behind him. If he doesn’t like the current coach, neither will they. If he doesn’t get behind new signees this off-season, the fans won’t embrace them either. It’s been a long time in the making, and the Lakers now have positioned themselves in a precarious situation.
The Lakers have been known to make their mark during the summer months. In 1996, they acquired Shaq and Kobe. In 2003, they made a huge splash by bringing in Gary Payton and Karl Malone. Most recently, in the summer of 2012, they blindsided everyone by trading for Steve Nash, then acquiring Dwight Howard.
But this summer presents them with a new set of challenges.
Is D’Antoni really the man we want to go forward with? While the Lakers success, or more appropriately lack thereof, can not be directly blamed to him, there is an argument to be made for his firing. More worrisome is the fact that he is under contract for just one more season after the conclusion of this one. If the Lakers assemble a roster suitable to his playstyle, then decide to part ways with him next summer, they’ve put themselves into a bad situation heading into Bryant’s final year.
For now, it’s a big game of what if. What we do know is that Mitch Kupchak, Jim Buss, and Jeanie Buss have a very delicate situation at their hands, and the next few months will shape the future of this franchise.