Despite trying to re-tool over the summer in hopes of being more competitive this season, the Los Angeles Lakers are apparently only selling one thing: Kobe Bryant.
With less than a week until the regular season begins, the Lakers are commemorating Bryant’s 20th season by plastering him all over the cover of their media guide:
If you’re one of the other 16 players currently on the roster (they have to get down to 15 before the season begins), well… sorry!
The irony in this display of devotion to Kobe is that there’s no official indication that this is Kobe’s final season, which is how many, including the Lakers, have been treating it. Bryant’s contract ends after this season, and while he’s talked retiring, he’s never officially confirmed it, and nobody else around the league seems to know his plans after this season.
Furthermore, the Lakers have been trying to build a team that is both competitive enough for Kobe, but also set up to survive his potential departure in the future. In fact, some people in the NBA world think that the Lakers would be better off without Kobe, who prevents them from entering a full rebuild mode, but also takes up $US25 million in cap space and refuses to take a lesser role.
Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak has publicly insisted that Bryant is on board with the Lakers plan, but he also hinted that Bryant is bound to try to take over when he thinks he can do a better job than the rest of the team (via ESPN’s Baxter Holmes):
“I don’t think it will be any different than it has been in years past. [Bryant will] be 100 per cent on board with the game plan, and he’ll be patient, as patient as he can be. But there will be a point where if things aren’t going the way that he feels they should be going or the players aren’t producing, his instincts will kick in, and I’m sure he’ll try to do as much as possible.”
So, it’s odd, then, that a team that has no confirmation that Kobe is retiring is already celebrating his career. Furthermore, it doesn’t exactly help sell their vision that they’re in a phase where the team no longer revolves around Kobe when he’s literally the only player on their media guide.
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