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With the Los Angeles Lakers getting trounced from the playoffs by the Oklahoma City Thunder Monday, talk of how LA will revamp for next season has already begun.The Lakers are well over the salary cap and already traded away their 2012 first round draft pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers, which means their only avenue for improvement is trading one or both of their assets: Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.
We can play around with trade scenarios forever, but the bottom line is this: the Lakers won’t be an elite team again until they move on from the Kobe Bryant era and start anew.
It may sound ludicrous, but it’s true.
Kobe may still play at an elite level, but his age, impatience and giant contract give LA zero flexibility.
The Lakers don’t have the time to develop a young player like they did with Bynum, lest they want to anger their 34-year-old superstar.
And the current LA roster is in that weird in-between stage they found themselves in after the 80s Showtime teams got older and before Kobe, Shaq, and Phil Jackson teamed up a decade ago.
But trading away Bynum, Gasol or both means putting together another team on the fly.
By doing that, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak would basically be guaranteeing more quick playoff exits in the years to come.
We’re not suggesting they get rid of Kobe, that would lead to all out mutiny from fans.
We’re merely pointing out the obvious: Kobe is too old to care about the future of this team and only lives in the now.
So the Lakers are stuck.
In a perfect world, the Lakers would build a young, athletic team around Bynum and be back in serious contention with the likes of OKC and Miami in a few years.
That won’t happen any time soon, though.
Expect Gasol to be sent packing this offseason and for this team to continually have short-lived playoff appearances in the near future.
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