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Kobe injury a reality check for Lakers, doesn’t really change plan

Dec 19, 2013, 10:29 PM EST

Kobe Bryant Getty Images

Even with Kobe Bryant, the playoffs were a long shot for the Lakers this season — their defense was slipping, and their offense was not going to carry them far enough in a deep Western Conference.

Kobe Bryant’s injury — out six weeks now with a fracture of tibial plateau in in his left knee — only exacerbates the problem. The Lakers have a rough stretch of the schedule coming up including some tough road games and in a West where the pace is 47-48 wins just to get the eight seed the Lakers are going to fall short.

Even with the injury, the Lakers long-term plans don’t really change.

This Bryant injury may be a reality check for some around the Lakers (and some of their rabid fans). They thought Kobe was going to come back from his Achilles surgery, return to near his All-NBA form fairly quickly and with just a few moves (a major signing or trade) they would be back as a contenders.

It was never that simple or easy and this injury should help bring that reality into focus. Kobe is not going to be the same, building a team around him will be difficult.

However, the injury doesn’t really change the Lakers plans.

First, the Lakers do not tank. They are not going to sell off a lot of assets and try to go the full Wiggins here — they don’t need to as they can draw major free agents (unlike smaller markets). Plus they never really could tank. Kobe will be back around Feb. 1 and you try to tell him how the Lakers should try to be bad to get some untested rookie.

The injury also doesn’t change how the Lakers feel about Kobe’s two-year, $48.5 million contract extension — that was about rewarding a loyal Laker who still fills the expensive seats and brings in the sponsors. Kobe has made the Buss family a lot of money, they gave him another cut. There was and is no regret there, and from a business perspective it was the right move.

With the injury the Lakers are going to look to make trades — don’t be shocked if guys like Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman get moved, those guys have value around the league (all bigs do). The Lakers will listen to any calls, but they are not going to take on salary that messes up future cap space.

Likely Pau Gasol spends this entire season with the Lakers then they let him walk (don’t expect him back with this team next). They will look for trades but with his $19.3 million salary and the Lakers not wanting to take on salary in future years (and teams being stingy giving away picks) there just are not going to be options.

Then this summer — and really more intently in the summer of 2015 — the Lakers will hit the free agent market hard, looking for the star player that they can both pair with Kobe and who can take over the mantle of Lakers leader when he is gone. Around that guy they bring in the right role players (and possibly a new coach) to make it all fit. It’s about acquiring the big talent first.

And that was always the plan. Injury or not.

  1. xjokerz - Dec 19, 2013 at 10:32 PM

    if the Fakers were smart, they would tank.

    Kobe is no longer 25 years old..once Faker fans realize this..the better.

    • money2long - Dec 19, 2013 at 10:58 PM

      O, yeah. because only 25 year olds win championships. ahah .

  2. bucrightoff - Dec 19, 2013 at 10:54 PM

    The reality is Mitch Kupchak isn’t as good a GM as people believe. Consider his last two trades, which must rank as two of the worst ever. The Dwight Howard trade was a debacle. Even if Bynum never amounts to nothing, he was still at the time a valuable asset. They could have gotten at worst a first round pick for him, which in case you haven’t noticed they could use right now. The Nash trade is getting to be just as bad, you don’t trade two first round picks for a guy with diminishing skills who can’t play 50 games.

    His best trade was the Pau Gasol trade, which now isn’t nearly as lopsided as it initially appeared. Certainly it got the Lakers two rings, but Marc Gasol figures to be a top 5 center for 4-6 more years and maybe more. However getting rid of future murderer Javaris Critterton is underrated as it spared the Lakers the embarassment of being associated with him.

  3. antistratfordian - Dec 19, 2013 at 11:09 PM

    This Bryant injury may be a reality check for some around the Lakers (and some of their rabid fans). They thought Kobe was going to come back from his Achilles surgery, return to near his All-NBA form fairly quickly and with just a few moves (a major signing or trade) they would be back as a contenders.

    It was never that simple or easy…

    I’ve been saying that for months, but only get called a troll for it.

    …that was about rewarding a loyal Laker who still fills the expensive seats and brings in the sponsors. Kobe has made the Buss family a lot of money, they gave him another cut. There was and is no regret there, and from a business perspective it was the right move.

    Disagree with that. They already rewarded Kobe – and then some – with his last contract (the one where he was already overpaid for the tail end of it). It may have been the right move from a sentimental perspective, but from a business perspective it was amateur hour. They could’ve signed Kobe for a lot less – and they should’ve tried considering his age and injury – because he wasn’t going to go to a new team. He was probably expecting some sort of low offer that never came, considering that he was often fielding questions about pay-cuts.

    Also, didn’t Kupchak say he could’ve waited a few more months but he felt like he saw enough in practice? It would only be natural if Mitch now feels that he probably should’ve waited, hindsight being 20/20.

    • muhangis - Dec 20, 2013 at 4:19 AM

      no we were just happy when our star player returned, and to see him play again. Who is your favorite team Antistratfordian, do you like to see your team’s star player injured and out of the game for a long, long time? Well we don’t either – so don’t be hypocritical. You sound as shallow-minded as it gets.

      [Few moves this season? Well, there was no major signing this off-season because THERE WAS NOT ONE AVAILABLE – *as we should know] It didn’t exactly occur out of choice. *D Howard left → championship hope reasonably cut off.

      And I have not heard one single Laker fan (as I’m one myself) saying we are a title contender this year!? We and office management have conceded this before even the first game of the year. Where the hell do you get this stuff from??? Cut the gibberish my friend.

      Also regarding the Kobe contract, he’s taking in a $7 million pay cut next season (’14-’15). His $30.5 M contract, they are merely paying him in advance for what they won’t be able to pay him the following year – due to cap restrictions, so they can add a marquee free-agent or two this summer. Anybody with any slight intuition in their head can see this! The Lakers have the $$$, and they have all this wide empty cap space open this season, so why not use it while you can? Doesn’t matter if you pay it now, or next year, or year after that – It all totals the same. [It’s not exactly as if Kobe is living paycheck-to-paycheck.] I wouldn’t be surprised in fact if at the end of this season they restructure KB’s contract to where he earns even less than $23 M next season and after. It’s listed that way to be prudent for now.

      Not to mention Jordan, at the same age as Bryant was being paid $30.3 M and $33.5 M respectively his last two seasons w/ the Bulls. NOBODY ESPECIALLY YOU WERE COMPLAINING THEN! This is not for one but TWO consecutive years totaling $63.5 M. And this was in the late- 1990’s!! (hint to you: calculate in inflation.) Argue whether Kobe is as great as Jordan all you want; but Kobe is our Jordan! (a def 1st ballot Hof’er who lead us to 5 championship rings.)

      Antistratfordian sure is known to make the most blind, thoughtless comments.

      • antistratfordian - Dec 20, 2013 at 6:06 PM

        Not to mention Jordan, at the same age as Bryant was being paid $30.3 M and $33.5 M respectively his last two seasons w/ the Bulls. NOBODY ESPECIALLY YOU WERE COMPLAINING THEN!

        There was no reason to complain. Jordan was healthy and considered the best player in the game, and that was the very first time MJ became the highest paid player in the league; finally getting paid what he was worth. Before that it was very well known that he was criminally underpaid.

        That is quite unlike Kobe Bryant, who has already made close to 300 million dollars (3x Jordan’s career earnings) and has already been the highest paid player for years, and well overpaid for the last few. People cringe at the idea of him remaining the highest paid player because 1) Kobe is not anywhere close to being the best player in the league – he’s not even the best player in California – and 2) he was coming off a devastating injury.

    • muhangis - Dec 20, 2013 at 4:23 AM

      Jordan got his contract in ’96.

    • loungefly74 - Dec 20, 2013 at 12:56 PM

      agree, they should have signed Kobe for a lot less…he would have stayed…but from pure business stand-point, it was the right call…just, it should have been for less…with that said, he will still make the organization tons of money…lets not forget, its all about the money.

      • antistratfordian - Dec 20, 2013 at 4:00 PM

        From a “pure” business standpoint it wasn’t the right call. “Pure” business is more shrewd than that – removing emotions and sentimentality. The Lakers handled that negotiation like they couldn’t wait to start flushing money down the toilet for the sake of nostalgia.

        Kobe wouldn’t even give himself that type of money under the same circumstances, because Bryant IS shrewd – look at how he deals with his mother.

        So what kind of offer do you think GM-Kobe would’ve offered 35-year-old-rehabbing-Kobe? That number would probably be a pure business number.

      • loungefly74 - Dec 23, 2013 at 8:36 AM

        The call is either to “sign” OR “not sign”. It was the right call…from a pure business standpoint point. they are making tons of money off of Kobe (and i’m not going to get into the semantics of defining “pure”…that is missing the point) …and this is where your faults hurt your arguments. YOUR emotions are displayed on this topic…that is why you are having difficulty understanding why the Lakers resigned Kobe. your position of being devil’s advocate is well documented…yet…Kobe is beloved by the organization and most fans…but, of course, only you possess the bussiness savy of the basketball world, right. uh huh. Again, no one is arguing they should have done it for a lot less…but the fact that they did sign him was correct.

      • antistratfordian - Dec 23, 2013 at 3:56 PM

        There was never any question about signing or not signing – that wasn’t the call. He was going to be signed – the call was about the details.

        I don’t have any difficulty understanding why the Lakers resigned Kobe.

  4. sensiblevoice - Dec 19, 2013 at 11:15 PM

    5 out of the last 7 posts were about the lakers! wth pbt?

    • Professor Fate - Dec 19, 2013 at 11:29 PM

      The Buss family ain’t the only folks the Lakers make money for.

    • davidly - Dec 20, 2013 at 4:33 AM

      IF YOU WANT TO STOP THE MADNESS YOU NEED TO POST YOUR COMMENT ON ALL 7 POSTS!!!!11

    • loungefly74 - Dec 20, 2013 at 1:01 PM

      uh…yeah, even during bad times…the Lakers are the crown jewel of the NBA…and dont you forget that! yee haw!

  5. clevelandschronic2 - Dec 20, 2013 at 1:58 AM

    I bet faker fans are extremely glad that they gave kobe the Derek Jeter contract, only problem is basketball had a salary cap while baseball dont so this contract will continue to keep the lakers from getting better players and actually competing for a title. lebron, melo or whoever the fans think might go to the lakers wont because there will be noone else besides an old overpaid and injury prone ball hog kobe and an old injury prone nash. lakers need to tank and stop trading draft picks so they can get some younger talent, instead of signing older free agents every year. looks like the Clippers will be running LA for atleast 3-5 years while the lakers continue to be mediocre.

    • musician0785 - Dec 20, 2013 at 2:21 AM

      this must be true because everyone knows Cleveland fans are the authority on being mediocre to awful, and free agents not wanna go there…..

    • isaiah007 - Dec 20, 2013 at 4:15 AM

      T

    • asimonetti88 - Dec 20, 2013 at 11:33 AM

      “looks like the Clippers will be running LA for atleast 3-5 years”

      KTLA News at 6 was on in the gym yesterday. Their sports lead was the Lakers, despite the Clippers having played more recently. Please tell me more about the Clippers “running LA”.

    • loungefly74 - Dec 20, 2013 at 1:04 PM

      cleveland homeboy needs a reality check!

      @musician0785 …ha! sad but true.

  6. clevelandschronic2 - Dec 20, 2013 at 3:39 AM

    funny how you bring up cleveland on a lakers article. just goes to show how trashy and butt hurt the LA fans are. anyone who says anything remotely negative about the Fakers are considered haters. speaking of free agents not wanting to go somewhere… i guess you forgot about Dwight. No Star is goin to go to LA while you have the biggest ball hog,injury prone and overpaid kobe.

    • musician0785 - Dec 20, 2013 at 6:13 PM

      I bring up Cleveland because THAT’S YOUR USERNAME you moron….oh yea and very clever how you replace the L with an F….did you come up with that all by yourself?

  7. kavika6 - Dec 20, 2013 at 4:09 AM

    Sadly Kobe and Rose will still make the all-star game after playing only a handful of games each.

  8. kavika6 - Dec 20, 2013 at 4:13 AM

    Too bad the Lakers aren’t in the eastern conference, they could finish the season as a three or four seed.

  9. mungman69 - Dec 20, 2013 at 5:37 AM

    They must have a lot of cap space (they don’t) to sign many free agents.

  10. mungman69 - Dec 20, 2013 at 5:37 AM

    They must have a lot of cap space (they don’t) to sign many free agents.

  11. nbascreed - Dec 20, 2013 at 6:27 AM

    Kurt, this is some good stuff buddy! Nice take.

  12. cowpiesnotcowboys - Dec 20, 2013 at 11:17 AM

    I guess the plan is to shoot for a 6-8 seed in the playoffs for the next 3 years then.

  13. mogogo1 - Dec 20, 2013 at 12:12 PM

    “There was and is no regret there, and from a business perspective it was the right move.”
    ______________

    There may be no regret but there is absolutely zero evidence giving Kobe that huge new contract was a smart business move. The expensive seats will be filled much more effectively by a winning team, regardless who the players happen to be on that team. Building a winner in Kobe’s twilight years has been made considerably harder by tying up that much money in him. And there’s still the very real question of how Kobe will respond if they actually do manage to acquire an up-and-coming superstar who threatens his lead-dog status.

  14. fpstratton - Dec 20, 2013 at 3:32 PM

    I have to agree, mogogo1. I love Kobe. He is arguably the greatest shotmaker in NBA history (which isn’t the same as being the best player, of course–Michael Jordan owns that honor, I think). However, Kobe’s skills have eroded, much as any human being’s would after a certain age. He’s not going to win any more championships, and that’s O.K. Having won five, he has nothing left to prove. Who gives a rip about whether he ties Jordan at 6? Add in the recent injury factor, and it’s obvious Kobe isn’t worth the money he was worth five years ago.

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