There’s an article about Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers’ recent inability to sign superstar free agents by Henry Abbott in the new ESPN The Magazine, and it’s absolutely brutal for Kobe.
Abbott reports that NBA stars don’t want to play with Kobe anymore. He also cites sources who said Kobe has sabotaged free agency negotiations with multiple big-name players since 2011.
One anonymous “source close to Lakers decision makers” told Abbott:
“He wants to win. But only as long as he’s the reason we’re winning, as long as the performance is not affecting his numbers. No one works harder than Kobe. And no one sabotages his own efforts more. He’s scaring off the free agents we’re trying to get. We’re trying to surround you with talent and your ego is getting in the way.”
Some of the example of this alleged “sabotage” include:
- When the Lakers were trying to re-sign Dwight Howard in 2013, Kobe showed up to the team’s meeting with him in gym clothes and proceeded to lecture Howard about what it takes to win. Howard ended up signing with Houston for $US30 million less than he would have gotten with the Lakers.
- Kobe missed the team’s meeting with Carmelo Anthony in the summer of 2014 because he flew to Europe. Anthony ended up staying with the Knicks.
- The team asked Kobe to call Steve Nash and talk about playing together when the Lakers were trying to trade for him in 2012. Kobe never called him because he wanted Nash to be the one to have to make the call.
- Paul George re-signed with the Pacers instead of entering free agency and potentially signing with the Lakers because “he was turned off by the thought that Bryant would police his efforts.”
Historically, the Lakers have always been able to rely on superstar players wanting to live in Los Angeles and play for the Lakers. But since 2011 they have been unable to sign big free agents. They missed on Howard, Anthony, Chris Bosh, and didn’t even get a meeting with LeBron James this summer. They also weren’t a part of the Kevin Love trade sweepstakes.
At least according to Abbott’s sources, Kobe’s alpha playing style and prickly personality are the main reasons why NBA stars don’t want to play there.
“The view in the Lakers’ front office is that any real rebuild will have to wait until after Bryant’s retirement,” Abbott reports.
To be fair, everyone thought the Lakers were going to be the best team in the NBA when both Howard and Nash forced trades to Los Angeles in 2012. In addition, we might not even be having this conversation if David Stern didn’t veto the Chris Paul trade that would have set up the Lakers for another period of success.
There are also other reasons the Lakers haven’t signed free agents in 2013 and 2014, most notably the new collective bargaining agreement, which incentivizes free agents to stay with their current teams. The Lakers also had no cap room in 2013.
Kobe has two years left on his $US48 million contract extension that will keep him as the highest-paid player in the NBA through 2016.
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