Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak knows Kobe Bryant professionally as well as anyone at this point, considering that he’s been in the team’s front office for every one of Bryant’s 17-year career in Los Angeles.
So while Bryant’s will to win is unparalleled in today’s NBA, Kupchak knows that he won’t change his game for anyone — especially potential stars looking to Los Angeles as a potential destination in free agency next summer.
Simply put, Bryant is not going to showcase a certain, more appealing style of play in hopes that it may entice free agents to sign up to play by his side.
“Kobe is not going to play to lure somebody to Los Angeles,” Kupchak said Wednesday, addressing the press in advance on Saturday’s media day. “He’s going to play to try to win games. If the way he plays helps lure players to Los Angeles, then so be it. But trust me, in January, February and March, that’s not what he’s thinking when there’s a game being played.”
The Lakers have a massive amount of cap space stored for the summer of 2014 when they figure to be major players on the free agency market.
It would seem obvious that players looking to play in a large market with the chance to win would want to team up with Bryant, but there are additional details that make the situation less simple.
The reason that this would even be a question is because of the way things unfolded last season, when Dwight Howard made it very clear that he didn’t enjoy his time playing with Bryant and the Lakers.
When L.A. is loaded with talent, there are championship expectations. Not all players thrive in that situation, and not all players want to play second fiddle to Bryant on the offensive end of the floor.
There will come a time very soon that Kobe may need to relinquish some of his offensive responsibilities for the betterment of the team, and in order to make younger free agents more readily consider the Lakers as a long-term career option.
But that time doesn’t appear to be upon us just yet, and Kupchak is aware of that perhaps more than anyone else.
“I do expect when he does come back, and if he’s thinking a certain way, and we’re down by two or three, the Kobe we all know and love is going to take the last shot,” Kupchak said. “I do know that.”