Tuesday, October 30, 2007

L.A. Lakers - Kobe = A Bleak Future

The Blot, since he was a very little boy, has always bled Laker Purple and Gold. So it disgusts me even more than the day General Manager Mitch Kupchak traded away the greatest basketball player of all time, his diesel-ness Shaquille O’Neal, to watch what is currently unfolding in Laker country. In short, a few months back Kobe demanded a trade and the Lakers said no. Now all of a sudden Pandora’s box was reopened due to some ill advised comments by the Laker's owner Dr. Jerry Buss and it seems things are no longer amicable and a trade is looming in the wings. The fact is Kobe is fed up with losing and the pathetic attempt by the Laker brain trust consisting of owner Dr. Buss, Buss’s son/Assistant GM Jim Buss and Kupchak to put together a championship contending team.

Los Angeles Lakers
Truth be told, Mitch Kupchak has proven to be not only a horrible replacement GM for “The Logo” Jerry West, but one of the worst GMs in all of professional basketball. Time and time again his trades and draft picks have proven fruitless and in many instances seem to have been the completely wrong decision. What truly scares The Blot, is that I now find myself actually agreeing with Kupchak’s view on the situation.

NBA LogoFor months, Kobe has been asking for a trade and now after everything appeared to have been smoothed over (and on the eve of the tip off of the 2007-2008 NBA season) it appears Dr. Buss is finally ready to appease his star player's request. There appears to be a few unique snags that would hamper a trade of this kind going through though. First and foremost is the fact that Kobe has the only no trade clause in all of the NBA. This basically means any trade involving Kobe has to be signed off by him first. The other is that after the 2008-2009 season Kobe has the ability to opt-out of his contract and become a free agent. These two things combined really handcuff the Lakers.

If they decide to stand pat with the make up of the team and do not trade Kobe then there is probably a 100% chance he opts-out and leaves the team with nothing. Because of Kobe’s no trade clause the number of teams Kobe would be willing to be dealt to shrinks down to about 3 or 4, which most insiders believe to be the Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks and possibly either the Phoenix Suns, Washington Wizards or Houston Rockets. Even then, if the Lakers find a team on that short list is willing to make a somewhat fair trade, the new team would then be no better than the Lakers were last year with Kobe. This would lead him to opt out after next season anyway, which is why none of those teams would dare make a fair trade with the Lakers. So as you see it is quite the vicious circle. It seems the only way for the Lakers to actually get something for a departing Kobe is to trade him well below market value to an already good team, an act that would alarm most teams in the league and fans of the Lakers.

Kobe Bryant

This predicament has led to a pretty decisive rift within team management. On the one side are Jerry and Jim Buss who are tired of listening to Kobe’s whining and would like to move him in order to begin crafting the next phase of the franchise. On the other side is daughter Jeanie Buss and her boyfriend/head coach of the team/hall-of-famer Phil Jackson who are dismayed the team is even discussing moving the team’s and the league’s best player. Surprisingly on their side is the inept Kupchak who fears being known as the GM who dismantled the Laker dynasty and traded away future hall-of-famers Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, both for well under market value.

What I don’t understand is what the Buss’ think will be achieved by trading Bryant. They will be losing not only the team’s lone star but the biggest star in a city full of them. By the team being in a city where image is everything, the need for a larger than life star to pull in the Hollywood elite to the games is a must. The Lakers have never gone more than a few years without at least one of the game’s biggest stars, from the George Mikan era to the Elgin Baylor/Jerry West/Wilt Chamberlain led teams to Showtime of the 80’s staring Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and James Worthy to the most recent dynasty of Shaq and Kobe. If Kobe leaves or is traded that will leave the Lakers’ cupboard bare for the first time in a very long time. And with the team’s recent success combined with the wasted draft picks and free agent signings by Kupchak, the team’s future looks pretty bleak.

KobeIt baffles me that Dr. Buss knows that all it takes to win in the NBA is one or two star players and a few solid role players, so what are the Buss’ possibly thinking considering a trade of Kobe!?! In my opinion the Lakers have only one real option, FIRE KUPCHAK. Bring back Zeek from Cabin Creek, a.k.a Jerry West, at any cost and right this sinking ship. You don’t bring a winning attitude to a team by trading away the best player in the league. The organization needs to decide to spend some money like they did when they gave Kobe the huge contract he so richly deserved and surround him with quality role players. Then lock in the hall-of-fame head coach that made Kobe the player he is today into a long term deal. It really is too bad the Lakers and Kupchak were unable to acquire a second star for Kobe to run with. The addition of Kevin Garnett or Jermaine O’Neal to the team would have been huge and worth every penny. But, other good players can still be acquired. The process has already begun by bringing back Kobe friend and all around great guy Derek Fisher. The team isn’t horrible but it is definitely not championship caliber yet. That being said with a few minor changes this team could be much better. It is still not too late…so here is my plea Dr. Buss, swallow your pride and please publicly admit Kobe isn’t going anywhere. You don’t even have to apology, just vow to work with your star player to improve the franchise by creating a championship caliber team that your fans deserve and all will be forgiven! That isn’t too much to ask, is it?

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