Is Kobe Bryant Hurting The Lakers?

When a player reaches a certain “superstar” status, that player begins to take on more of a role within the team. Some players just play the game, some mentor younger players to help them grow and get better, others meddle in front office affairs. Kobe Bryant has done the latter, and in so doing has hurt the Los Angeles Lakers more than he has helped them in recent years.

Kobe has used his status–and his tenure with the Lakers–to make front office demands in the past. It was Kobe who forced Shaquille O’Neal out back in 2004. It was rumored that it was also Kobe who forced Phil Jackson into retirement. It was Kobe who never let Dwight Howard develop into the role player he could have been for the Lakers. And it is Kobe who has a say in who the team signs, and even who coaches the team, leading up to the delay in the Lakers hiring a new head coach. All of this is too much power for one player, and by taking that authority away from general manager Mitch Kupchak, he is effectively hurting the team.

According to Phil Jackson’s book, Kobe and Dwight Howard never connected, and Howard, seeing that Kobe was not going to relinquish his power anytime soon, demanded that he be released so Howard could sign with Houston.

And now it’s come to light that Kobe Bryant, who recently signed a large contract extension, was pressuring the Lakers in bringing in veterans like Carmelo Anthony, who re-signed with the Knicks, and there was even talk that Kobe wanted Lebron James, but both ‘Melo and Lebron realized that the Lakers are “Kobe’s Team,” and they passed. Kobe’s contract prevents the team from seeking out true talent and forces them to go cheap, in hopes of winning now, but winning Kobe’s way. The Bleacher Report explains how Kobe Bryant’s new money hurts the team going forward.

Bryant’s contract kills the Lakers’ chances of being competitive this year or next. You can cite the opportunistic acquisition of Jeremy Lin and the cheap Davis signing all you want, but the fact is the Lakers no longer have Pau Gasol and have no idea if Bryant will ever be an impactful player again.

And even if Kobe inexplicably returns to the peak form of years past, he’ll still be surrounded by one of the worst supporting casts in the league.

The Lakers went out and got Carlos Boozer in hopes of winning now. This hurts the team in general, as these sometimes-overpriced veterans prevent younger guys from getting the minutes they need to develop. Kobe’s “win now” attitude is hurting the Lakers. As reported in the Bleacher Report just yesterday, Kobe Bryant made it very clear his intentions–his, not the team’s–at a speech given in Santa Barbara earlier this month.

When we introduce the complicating factors of Bryant and his massive extension, we get an explanation as to why LA would bring in a nearly washed-up veteran who’ll block the development of the team’s two most promising young pieces: Julius Randle and Ed Davis.

The Lakers simply can’t rebuild around their youth because Bryant won’t stand for it.

“I’ve never had patience. I’m not going to start now,” Bryant said.

The Lakers, who in the last few years had built what could have been an all-star team with Howard and guard Steve Nash joining Kobe, fell short of winning due primarily to injury–injuries that comes with older, beat up veterans. Had the Lakers been able to develop their younger players, the team and the organization would be well on their way to rebounding from last season’s dismal record.

Kobe Bryant is a certain NBA Hall of Famer who has a hand full of rings and accolades befitting a player of his caliber. But in the end, his status–and his contract–may actually be hurting the Los Angles Lakers, and his drive to “win now” puts the team as a whole in a precarious situation.

[Image Courtesy of blacknesws.com]