Skip to content

Kobe will be back, but what do Lakers do this summer now?

Apr 13, 2013, 11:02 AM EST

Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

Kobe Bryant isn’t going to let his career end this way, limping off the court with a torn Achilles tendon.

It is going to end on his terns. He would not allow it to be any other way. He will be back. An hour after he limped off the court he was telling the media exactly that.

“I know I can do this,” Bryant said. “It’s fueling me. It’s fueling me. I can feel it already.”

As for when he’ll be back, it will be some time next season (we’ll have a better idea after his surgery but to get a full range of motion and leg strength back on these injuries often takes a year). He’ll almost certainly miss games — and at his age him returning to his current level of play seems unlikely — but you know he’ll be diligent about his recovery. He’ll be back. And when he’s back he’ll be good.

But what do the Lakers do this summer to prepare for next season?

Pretty much what they were already going to do. They don’t have a lot of other options.

First, re-sign Dwight Howard. He’s still the future. He’s still the man you build around for the post-Kobe era, it’s just now that era will include part of next season. The Lakers will offer him a max contract, you can expect him to sign it.

Next, they need to decide what kind of team they will be, what kind of system they will run. Coach Mike D’Antoni came in with how he wanted to play but the Lakers have largely modified away from that as it was clear the personnel on the roster didn’t fit that style. To D’Antoni’s credit they have gotten away from some of what he wanted to do and they run “horns” and some traditional NBA sets in there. With Kobe out do they go to a system that is a lot of Steve Nash with the ball in his hands, running the pick-and-roll with Howard?

This summer Lakers management has to decide what kind of team they want to be, how to tweak the roster to fit that ideal.

The problem is with a max Howard deal in place the Lakers remain hamstrung in trying to reshape the roster because they are so far over the luxury tax line — they are expected to have a payroll in the $100 million range, which under the new system would mean $85 million in taxes on top of it. Kobe alone will make $30 million next season. Even for the Lakers deep pockets with their rich cable deal that is a steep, steep price. It limits the trades they can make and they can only sign free agents for the veteran minimum.

The Lakers however, need to get more athletic on the wings with better defense on the perimeter (particularly while Kobe is out) and they need better depth at the point guard because Steve Blake functions okay as a shooter when Kobe is the ball handler but they now need better ball handlers to play when Steve Nash is sits/is out.

If you’re thinking trade, what do the Lakers have to trade that other teams want? Look at their rotation from Friday night outside Kobe/Howard (and Nash, who they would not move): Steve Blake, Earl Clark (who is a free agent this summer), Metta World Peace, Jodie Meeks and Antawn Jamison. On the bench there is Chris Duhon, Devin Ebanks and Jordan Hill and Darius Morris.

There is nothing there you can trade for any real value because those are not players other teams want.

Then there is Pau Gasol.

The Lakers may not move him, they aren’t going to just ship him out for a lowball offer (which is why he wasn’t traded at the deadline). But he is the one player there will be interest in — he has a steep $19 million price tag but it’s the last season of his deal and he is still a very effective scorer in the post. Gasol could help a lot of teams.

What the Lakers will not take back in a deal is long-term contracts — right now the only guys on the books for the summer of 2014 are Steve Nash (for one more year) and the new Dwight Howard deal that would be signed in the summer. The Lakers will reshape the roster in a major way that summer.

And that likely will include Kobe — he wants this to end on his terms. That might mean a season or two after his current deal ends where he can play and show how he came back and could still play at a high level. Kobe would take a steep discount (ala Tim Duncan/Kevin Garnett) to be part of this reworked Lakers roster.

This was all pretty much the plan when Kobe was healthy. It doesn’t change much. But the Lakers could feel very different next season.

Latest Posts
  1. Goran Dragic keeps his options open, says he’d consider coming to Knicks

    Dec 21, 2014, 9:30 PM EST

    Goran Dragic, Jose Calderon, Cole Aldrich AP

    Of course he said he’d consider the Knicks, it’s just smart business.

  2. Sources: Kings prefer George Karl, not serious about hiring Mark Jackson

    Dec 21, 2014, 6:30 PM EST

    George Karl AP

    The very public meeting with Jackson was leverage to help get Karl to lower his asking price.

  3. Brad Stevens insists he won’t leave Celtics for a college job

    Dec 21, 2014, 5:00 PM EST

    Brad Stevens Brad Stevens

    Stevens dismisses rumors of Indiana University.

  4. Iman Shumpert won’t require surgery for dislocated shoulder

    Dec 21, 2014, 3:30 PM EST

    Iman Shumpert Iman Shumpert

    The Knicks guard will be reevaluated in two weeks.

  5. Larry Sanders opens up about disastrous 2013-14 season

    Dec 21, 2014, 12:30 PM EST

    Larry Sanders Larry Sanders

    Everything went wrong for Sanders and the Bucks last year.

  6. Report: Lance Stephenson has clashed with Hornets teammates

    Dec 21, 2014, 11:00 AM EST

    Chicago Bulls v Charlotte Hornets Getty Images

    Why else would trade rumors surface 20 games or so into his first season in Charlotte?

  7. Blake Griffin with dagger tip-in to lift Clippers past Bucks (VIDEO)

    Dec 21, 2014, 8:00 AM EST

    Blake Griffin, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Chris Paul AP

    The Bucks went heavy with Brandon Knight at the end of the game. That went about as well as you’d expect.

  8. Rajon Rondo’s career highlights with the Celtics (VIDEO)

    Dec 20, 2014, 10:30 PM EST

    Rajon Rondo Rajon Rondo

    A final look back at Rondo’s time in Boston as he gets set to make his debut with Dallas.

  9. Report: Cavaliers GM passed on trading for Corey Brewer, hopes to add defensive big man instead

    Dec 20, 2014, 9:00 PM EST

    David Griffin AP

    Cavaliers are tied with the Pistons for 23rd in defensive efficiency.

  10. Report: Kings discussing trade for Deron Williams with Nets

    Dec 20, 2014, 7:11 PM EST

    New Jersey Nets practice 05/07/2014 AP

    Kings are looking to make a splash, and Williams has been made available in trade by the Nets.

  11. Report: Multiple teams contacting Suns trying to trade for Goran Dragic

    Dec 20, 2014, 6:30 PM EST

    Phoenix Suns Media Day Phoenix Suns Media Day

    Dragic will opt out of the final year of his deal to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Featured video

Jabari Parker injury latest for disappointing rookie class
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Durant (7136)
  2. K. Martin (6850)
  3. R. Rondo (6606)
  4. C. Bosh (6503)
  5. M. Smart (6321)
  1. T. Jones (6082)
  2. T. Parker (6054)
  3. D. Rose (5959)
  4. A. Bogut (5842)
  5. B. Lopez (5708)