By Will Reeve
The public misconception of the current state of the Los Angeles Lakers runs so rampant, that even top-tier major sports personalities have embarrassed themselves blaming Kobe Bryant and/or Jim Buss solely. It’s beyond time to set the record straight.
No, the Lakers aren’t where they’re at because Bryant was paid max money or because “no one wants to play with Kobe.” It isn’t solely because Jim Buss is at the helm of personnel decisions. As is the case with so many things in life, it’s a combination of factors.
Yes, free agents have avoided the Lakers over the last couple of years like the plague. However, this is not because Bryant is a notoriously difficult personality. Rather, it’s because no 28, 29 or 30 year old max contract free agent wants to come into a situation where they’re going to lose for two to three years.
This is not to say Bryant can’t be abrasive or that his contract hasn’t hampered the Lakers to a small extent. After all, if they would have signed LaMarcus Aldridge at the max offered salary of $18.8 million the team would have had less than $6 million left to flesh out their bench. That said, this debacle started years ago with one executive decision.
The vetoed Chris Paul trade left the Lakers seeking out a decrepit Steve Nash. It set the wheels in motion for a snowball effect that the team continues to pay for to this day.
Dr. Buss was a one of kind executive, and his passing at age 80 in 2013 only served to perpetuate the challenges at hand. With his son Jim Buss stepping in, you had to expect some missteps.
Yes, Jim Buss has made his fair share of mistakes. Whether it be in presentations to prospective free agents or in attempting to keep players like Dwight Howard, he has indeed fallen short of the incredible standard his father set. That said, he was working against an impossible standard and stacked deck in many respects.
With Nash’s injuries and Howard’s inevitable departure due to the depleted and weak roster, his age, not being willing to rise to the challenge of former Lakers bigs, and wanting to win now; I’m not sure what fans were expecting out of Buss.
Pau Gasol came to the Lakers, won two championships and chose to stay with Kobe until the wheels came off. Does this not show you that star players can play with Kobe? It should.
Did you expect Kobe to take less money because he’s not in his prime when he’s worth an incomparable amount to the Lakers franchise? Would you?
The reality is, as in life, the Lakers current state is a product of a series of events that can and will only be rectified via building through a process. A process that requires patience from the media and fans.
Let’s hope that both get the memo soon.