Kobe Bryant will be entering the final year of his contract with the Lakers next season, but just because one of the team’s (and the game’s) all-time greats may be hanging ’em up, that doesn’t mean L.A. will chase a title by making moves that will set the franchise back for years to come.
The Lakers have their sights set on rebuilding quickly by adding star talent in free agency, and may overpay someone like Goran Dragic to help jumpstart that process.
But taking on veterans who have lengthy, salary-cap-unfriendly deals isn’t something the team will consider, despite the fact that next season may very well be Bryant’s last.
“At some point we have to start a new run, and that’s definitely going to include Kobe next year,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said Friday.
“To jeopardize the next five or seven years … [by bringing] in old veterans that make a lot of money, just to win one more year, because that’s Kobe’s last year or could be his last year, I’m not sure that fits into doing it the right way.” …
“We’re going to look to do this the right way, which is to try to make prudent decisions about youth and veterans and making commitments to players under the existing rules. I’d love to be able to put together a young team that can win 55 games next year, but it’s not that easy. It’s just not that easy. It’s not off the table. It’s our goal, but we want to make sure we do it the right way.”
Lakers fans should be happy to hear this, because mortgaging the future for one season just because it may be Kobe’s last does nothing to set the franchise up for a new era of long-term success.
Besides, Bryant has seen three straight seasons now end prematurely due to injury. It’s far from guaranteed that he makes it through his next one, and with Kupchak taking the proper stance where the team’s rebuild is concerned, it’s looking more and more likely that the next window of championship contention in Los Angeles won’t be pried open until long after Kobe is gone.