Mailbag Monday: Kobe retirement, Clarkson sophomore slump?

In our second weekly Mailbag Monday, we tried something different and garnered questions via our Facebook page. We have a considerably smaller following there, but managed to get a couple questions nonetheless.

Gloria Irwin (hi, mom) asks: “What place do (you) think the Lakers will come in?”

We’ve been on record saying wins and losses don’t matter nearly as much as the progress of the Lakers’ young core, but tenth in the conference feels about right. They won’t really compete for the playoffs, meaning they’ll fall outside the top eight and/or ninth spot. Tenth would mean they made progress from last season and no crushing injuries took place.

This would be an ideal scenario considering where the Lakers were only months ago.

Denae Karl asks: “Will Kobe retire after this season?”

Ah, the proverbial million-dollar question.

In short, I do. While the thought of watching this team play without one of my favorite athletes of all-time is pretty mind-numbing, in order for the entire organization to move forward, Kobe needs to go. We’ve all heard of the cap space Mitch Kupchak and the front office stands to gain upon Bryant’s retirement, but more than that, we’ve reached a stalemate in terms of narrative surrounding Kobe’s Lakers.

How many players have been asked about the prospects of playing with Kobe like it’s simultaneously equal parts gift and curse? Roy Hibbert looks forward to the challenge. D’Angelo Russell called Kobe his Michael Jordan. The quotes pretty perfectly summarize what’s going on and what will continue so long as Kobe is around.

Now, none of that has much to do with Kobe’s actual decision to retire, but one would think he’d rather do so than want to come back and have the organization he’s spent all his adult life with tell him there’s no space. Add that to if Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle impress and the Lakers may not need Kobe on the court, either – especially considering the potential distraction he might bring off of it.

This is all for not if Kobe has some miraculous throwback season where he lifts this roster to heights most wouldn’t have seen possible, but given his recent injury history, miraculous feats of lifting would only cause some kind of hernia.

As I’m typing this article, “No Country For Old Men” is currently on my TV, which feels significant.

Scott Chasen asks: Given Kobe’s and Russell’s expected usage, is it reasonable to expect a pretty big sophomore slump for Clarkson, numbers-wise?

Now, this is interesting.

The question is slightly loaded because of the inherent meaning connected to the word “slump.” It’s hard to consider any kind of success for the 46th overall pick a season ago a slump, but alas. If you’re moving climbing upward in today’s NBA, you may as well be spiraling toward impending and unavoidable doom.

I’m only being partially facetious.

Now, Scott does make a couple valid points considering the considerably improved mouths needed to be fed on this roster compared to last year, where he had ample opportunity to enjoy the lion’s share of the Lakers’ statistics. Many would call Clarkson a looter in a riot, but he was pretty efficient for being a rookie carrying his team’s offense.

If given fewer opportunities, the obvious outcome would be fewer statistics, but that might not necessarily be the case. As I said earlier, Clarkson was one of maybe one and a half legitimate NBA players on the floor at any given moment for the Lakers last season. Under such circumstance, entire defenses were focused on stopping Clarkson from turning the corner into space. If guys like Kobe or Lou Williams are on the court, defenses won’t be able to focus as such any longer. If Randle or Russell play up to their potential, the point is all the more pertinent.

Basically, it’s a matter of quality versus quantity of opportunities for Clarkson. No, he will not have the freedom to dominate the ball as he did last season, but those times he does have it, fewer eyeballs will be focused his way. It’s a trade he’s probably happy to make.



Author: Anthony F. Irwin

The old guy.

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