In some rather interesting Los Angeles Lakers news, Kobe Bryant is gone from the team after this season ends, according to ESPN Senior Writer J.A. Adande.
You don’t have to be an NBA analyst to see that Bryant is struggling through the regular season. Even casual fans are seeing it. Bryant has been shooting 31.1 percent on regular field goals and 19.5 percent from beyond the three point line. His averages for blocks, rebounds, points, and assists are below his career averages. The Philadelphia native is also scoring 10 point less than his career average of 25.3 points. This is not the same Bryant that we’re used to seeing over the years.
With every missed shot and lost game, it is only natural for Lakers management to start looking toward the future. Though they would never admit it publicly, this season appears to be a lost one already. If there’s a playoff game at the Staples Center in southern California next spring, then it will most likely be Chris Paul and Blake Griffin leading the Los Angeles Clippers into battle. General manager Mitch Kupchak has to look at life for the Lakers without Bryant.
The Lakers have featured Bryant in the back court for much of the past two decades. Having a player as great as him around enabled the team to not put as much focus on the other starting guard spot. Once the Black Mamba decides to leave the franchise, Los Angeles will still have some firepower around. Veteran guard Louis Williams has shown that he can score a bunch. D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson are young offensive-minded players that can grow together.
With an average of 11.1 points and 8.6 rebounds per game, Julius Randle is showing the Lakers that they have one of their front line pieces already in place. The six-foot, nine-inch, 250-pound former Kentucky star has potential to become an All-Star player. Los Angeles just needs to find another forward and center to complete their trio up front. The task should be made a little easier because the Lakers have Randle, a good trio of guards, and a good amount of salary cap space.
The Lakers only have $23.1 million committed to the salary cap next season. If they are looking to sign a forward to pair with Randle, then they can go out and sign the best available one in the NBA. Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant is an unrestricted free agent, who has established himself as a legitimate franchise player, something that Los Angeles will need once Bryant is gone. Rumors have long persisted that Durant is interested in a change of scenery.
As far as the center position is concerned, Atlanta Hawks star Al Horford could join Durant and Randle to form one of the better front lines in the NBA. The six-foot, ten-inch, 245-pound player prefers to play forward but he has been really effective at the center position. Kupchak might be able to convince Horford to play center if he feels that Los Angeles can give him a better chance at winning his first NBA Championship. Of course, a maximum contract also helps as well.
Can the Los Angeles Lakers rebuild quickly after the imminent departure of longtime franchise player Kobe Bryant?
[Featured Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images]