ESPN published a scathing article detailing the adverse effects Kobe Bryant has on free agents considering the Lakers.
Lakers president Jeanie isn’t so quick to move on.
Buss, via ESPN:
“Any free agent that would be afraid to play with Kobe Bryant is probably a loser, and I’m glad they wouldn’t come to the team,” Buss said during a SportsCenter interview Thursday.
“I read the story,” Buss said Thursday. “I don’t agree with any of it. If there is somebody that’s on our payroll who is saying things like that, I’ll soon get to the bottom of it and they won’t be working for us anymore.”
In fact, Buss has a warning for all of Bryant’s detractors: “I have no doubt that Kobe will make people regret ever saying” those comments, she said.
That’s one scary threat, because it’s unlikely a 36-year-old Kobe with a recent devastating injury history is going make people pay on the court. Just what is he going to do?
Buss works on the business side of the organization, and from that perspective, Kobe’s two-year, $48.5 million contract extension – handed to him without negotiation – was a worthwhile investment. He’s just so valuable to the brand, and keeping him went a long way in preserving the loyalty of the Lakers’ customers.
But it’s increasingly difficult – whether or not he turns off free agents – to make the case Kobe provides value on the court. When you consider Kobe’s prickly personality probably rubs many teammates the wrong way, yeah, it’s fair to question just how much Kobe is holding the Lakers back right now.
That’s not to diminish all that Kobe has accomplished and all he’s given the franchise, including helping it win five championships. But the situation has changed since the Lakers last won a title in 2010, and that includes how other players perceive Kobe.
I don’t think players are “afraid” to play with Kobe. I think they’re adults who’d rather not deal with such a demanding, bordering on rude, teammate who’s no longer physically capable of playing at an elite level while making it difficult to add support while sucking up a huge percentage of the salary cap.
That’s not fear. That’s reasonable.
Buss might endear herself to Kobe with her comments, and that’s probably her goal. At this point, what choice do the Lakers have but to maximize unity between the front office and Kobe?
But she’s further alienating other players and, potentially, members of the organization. Like with everything Kobe, that might help the bottom line, but it’s hard to see it making it easier to win basketball games.