This would be the definition of playing to the fan base. Although I’m sure Kobe Bryant believes it.
There has been plenty of schadenfreude around the league — from other front offices to other fan bases — as the Lakers have fallen into being a hot mess this season. They entered the season with a roster not really built to run Mike D’Antoni’s offense (remember last season when Kobe and Pau Gasol were healthy and basically did their own thing?) then were hit by a rash of injuries. All that has the Lakers at 20-39 and looking at a top 5 draft pick.
You know Kobe is using that as fuel.
He said exactly that in an interview on Power 106 in Los Angeles, as transcribed by Lakersnation.com.
“This year, we all know it’s been a real tough year for us right?” Bryant said. “So what I’d like everybody to do is to really just sit back and just absorb this year. Take it all in. Sit back and watch and listen and hear all the hate that’s being thrown at us and remember every person that’s kicking you when you’re down because next year it ain’t gonna be this way.
“Appreciate it now. Let it sit in now, because revenge is sweet and it’s quick….
“You’ve got to appreciate that and enjoy that and use that as fuel as motivation to basically just shut everybody the hell up,” Bryant said. “It’s that challenge, that challenge that drives us all, I think, and definitely keeps me going.”
That is exactly what much of the fan base believes, what it wants to hear. It wants Kobe to bring that revenge after he signed a two-year, $48 million extension to his current contract this season. He took a pay cut of about $7 million but will remain the highest paid player in the NBA.
We’ll see how quick the Lakers’ revenge really is. While having a healthy Kobe back would certainly win more games for the Lakers next season, this rebuild is going to take multiple years.
The fact is unless Miami’s trio shakes it up — and that is unlikely at best — there really isn’t much in this free agent market for the Lakers. Carmelo Anthony is a bad fit. Luol Deng is interesting but his price could be steep. The Lakers have their eyes more on 2015 with Kevin Love (and Rajon Rondo and others) and 2016 when there could potentially be Kevin Durant among others. (Durant and LeBron James are the two guys you have to plan to have cap space for just in case — Durant may well not want to leave OKC, but he’s so transformative that the Lakers and a lot of other teams need to have cap space just in case he does want to move.)
By the time this Lakers team is potentially back as a force, even under the best of plans, it will be interesting to see what Kobe’s role will be. Or if he will still be in the NBA.