There still remains much uncertainty surrounding the future of Kobe Bryant due to the fact that he doesn’t know when exactly he will retire.
This has all but left the window open to the idea that Bryant could extend his career past next season when his two-year, $48.5 million contract is set to expire. What this has also done is bring many questions about what is the direction of the Los Angeles Lakers with so much influx in regards to the future.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has stated that the organization won’t build their roster around the 17-time All-Star if next season were to indeed be his last hurrah in the NBA, according to Bill Oram of the Orange County Register.
“To jeopardize the next five or seven years, bring in old veterans that make a lot of money, just to win one more year, because that’s Kobe’s last year or could be his last year, I’m not sure that fits into doing it the right way.”
In fact, the Lakers have their eyes set on improving the team through the draft, and free agency. At this current pace, they are set to potentially have two first-round picks in the 2015 draft. This includes one from the Houston Rockets, which was acquired in the Jeremy Lin trade last offseason.
The second, more importantly, could be a top-five selection which would remain theirs as long as they get into the top five in the draft order. If not, the pick will be sent to the Phoenix Suns as part of the trade that landed the team Steve Nash back in July of 2012.
It appears that the Lakers’ focus has shifted away from building around Bryant to an emphasis of finding that next star player or group of players that can bring the franchise back to relevancy after the five-time NBA champion retires.
Head coach Byron Scott still sees Bryant playing a huge part of the team’s immediate future, but also recognizes that there is a pressing need to find that next player who can carry the torch. Scott has bought into the organization’s game plan that was laid out to him by the front office when he was hired last offseason.
It is one that he has much confidence in coming to fruition with the end goal being another parade down Figueroa street in mid-June. However, it is a plan that he realistically knows will take more than just one season to get accomplished given the current state of the team.
“As a coach I want it to be a sprint,” Scott said prior to Friday’s 114-105 loss to the Brooklyn Nets. “You want it to happen as fast as possible, but I also understand that all great plans don’t always turn out the way you expect them to as well, so you have to be a little bit patient as well.”
“Like everyone else, I’m going to wait until this summer to see who we can get and then we’ll go from there. But from a coach’s standpoint, I want it to be a sprint. I want all the pieces in place next year, but I also have to be a realist that it takes some time.”
Scott also has the belief that there could be a scenario entering next year that the team could have legitimate title hopes given a prosperous offseason in free agency due to what is expected to an abundance of salary cap space.
“You got enough for two max players,” Scott said Friday. “And get a couple of other guys to see what we’re putting together and say, ‘Hey, I’ll take less money to come here and play in Los Angeles.’ There’s a scenario definitely where we could come into next season and say we have a legitimate chance.”
That could very well happen with what’s expected to be a talented group of free agents such as Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Goran Dragic, Marc Gasol, Reggie Jackson, Paul Millsap, and Greg Monroe. There is also just as much chance that none of these players choose to sign with the Lakers, whose future past this season is just as blurry as any of these players’ own at this point in time.
It is more likely the case that Los Angeles starts next season with a roster that is much improved, and heading in the right direction. There will still be much emphasis this summer to do as much as possible, as was the scenario last offseason, but if nothing transpires the Lakers will make with what they were able to get done.
This has been a difficult process for all involved, but with much potential in terms of draft picks, pending salary cap space, and Bryant and Julius Randle returning next season, much change could be on the horizon sooner than expected. However, in this rebuilding process patience is key to it all.
Bob Garcia IV
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