The Los Angeles Lakers are nowhere near title contention, and don’t plan on giving up on their future to contend for a title in what will be Kobe Bryant’s final season.
That might be a problem for Kobe.
This week, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak made it clear that the team wasn’t planning on going on a spending spree to gather veterans for a short-term run at the end of Bryant’s career. Speaking to reporters this week, Kupchak said the team instead needs to focus on the future and what the Lakers will need after Kobe retires.
“This team primarily has been Kobe’s team now for almost 18 or 20 years,” Kupchak said, “and we’re much closer to the end of those 18, 20 years than we are to the middle or the beginning. So at some point we have to start a new run.
“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.”
That seems to be at odds with what Kobe Bryant thought was the plan. In an interview with GQ published earlier this month, Kobe said he believed the team was ready to go all out for one final championship during his tenure.
The interview with Chuck Klosterman revealed Kobe’s ideas about next season.
“The Lakers are not going to make the playoffs this year, and it seems unlikely that they will challenge for a title next year. So if titles are your only goal, why even play these last two seasons?
I know what Mitch [Kupchak, the Lakers GM] tells me. I know what Jim and Jeanie [Buss, the team owners] tell me. I know that they are hell-bent about having a championship caliber team next season, as am I.”
So what does the impasse mean for Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers? It’s not entirely clear, but Kupchak did have hope that the team could make a quick turnaround in its rebuild, and coach Byron Scott has said he is pushing Kobe to stay beyond next season, when he said he’s retiring.
If that fails, some believe the Los Angeles Lakers could return to the trade rumors circulating for the past several months and help Kobe Bryant find a new home.