When the Lakers made it official that Kobe Bryant would in fact be out for the remainder of the season, the team held a press conference where Bryant took questions from reporters as is customary in these situations.
But Bryant did anything but toe the company line. He made it clear that he didn’t want to se Phil Jackson get away once again (which he now somewhat officially has), and expected the family running the front office to get their strained relationship straightened out.
Most importantly, Bryant made it clear that if he puts in all of the necessary work to be back playing next season at 100 percent, he won’t have “a lick of patience” for rebuilding, and expects the team to do whatever it can in order to put a roster together capable of winning now, and not wasting one of Bryant’s precious few remaining NBA seasons.
Bryant’s remarks were endorsed by Pau Gasol, who admired his teammate for publicly airing his grievances.
“I’m glad that he spoke his mind,” Gasol said following the Lakers’ 131-102 loss Thursday to the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena. “He wants to win. He’s got two years under contract with the franchise. He wants to be in the best possible position to win. Whether you do that publicly or internally, that’s totally up to you. He spoke his mind and you have to respect him for that.”’
Bryant has been Gasol’s biggest supporter within the organization in recent years, speaking up more than once as the trade rumors that were seemingly constant continued to swirl. And the two have formed a close bond — all of which makes Gasol’s reciprocation more expected than it is surprising.
The Lakers are in a difficult spot, to say the least. Waiting one more season before making a big free agent splash seems like the way to go, but then again, wasting one of the final two years of Bryant’s incredible career would seem like a huge mistake.
Assuming he returns fully healthy, Bryant can still play at an elite level, and adding just one more star and the right mix of role players could immediately make the Lakers formidable in the West. But L.A. needs to consider a life without Bryant at the same time, so a win-now plan may not be the best course of action if it ultimately mortgages the team’s future.