(Our Basketball Panel Answers Five Questions about Kobe Bryant’s Future and Season)
Will Kobe retire after this season and more importantly should he retire?
Alex Khalifa: My guess is that he will. Kobe may have flirted with the idea of joining the Clippers, but I believe he identifies so strongly with the Lakers organization that he wouldn’t play anywhere else. While he is a modern icon, I think the Lakers might finally be ready to move on without him as well. I’m not sure that Kobe is enjoying playing for a less than competitive team. It helps that he has won so many titles and doesn’t need one last title run to finish his career. However, I don’t think it’s fair to demand that a player retire. Some players hang on even when their skills diminish simply because they enjoy the game so much.
Mallory Stith-Wheat: The only reason I think he will retire is that he can’t play the way he used to. Every nick and bump is a four day rest. His body has taken so much abuse, it’s just not the same. For someone with such a strong mental focus it must be frustrating to be so dependent on the whims of his body. In my view, no player should retire unless they want to. As long as someone is going to pay them and if playing still gives them pleasure I say keep going.
C.J. Hampshire: I hope he doesn’t retire just to stick it to Jimbo (Buss). Kobe retiring is an end of an era. Gone is the hard-ass, tough nose, beat you because I am better arrogance that used to dominate the league. The league has gotten too nice. Everyone is everyone’s friend. Kobe is a breath of fresh air. He doesn’t want to be liked. Once he’s gone the league is very vanilla.
Dan Park: . He has relentlessly been chasing a 6th ring since 2010 but after his 20th season in the NBA, it may be time to call it quits. He has only played 41 games in the past two seasons due to injuries to his knee and shoulder. Father Time is definitely catching up to Kobe and the Lakers’ squad around him is not something spectacular. There may be promise in the future with off-season additions like Lou Williams, Brandon Bass, and Roy Hibbert, but it is hard to see them making a playoff run this season with that roster in a tough Western Conference.
Jim Buss said in an interview with USA Today that he has been a part of the Lakers success on the basketball side and the business side since 1996? Kobe was drafted in 1996. Does he mean he was part of that inner circle? Will this season evolve into a Kobe-Jim staring contest?
Mallory: Jim doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He had nothing to do with the Kobe trade in 1996. Furthermore he didn’t even start working for the Lakers until 1998. Trust absolutely nothing he says. As far as he and Kobe and the end of the season, he is trying to establish some authority, like he’s the big dog. Me laughing.
Julian Billick: Jim has an inferiority complex. He was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple. He wants to take credit now? Now? After he has driven this franchise into the gutter. Kobe will win the fight because Kobe always wins. Goodbye Jim. And no you don’t get more time on your promise.
C.J.: I love Jimbo. I’m the only one who does because is there a more ridiculous character in sports? Really, think about it. There is an irony that after two decades he is the gatekeeper between Kobe bolting and Kobe staying. As if it matters. Either way this team is dreadful. At least Kobe makes them watchable. Sorry, but D’angelo Russell only makes me turn the t.v. off. I love Jim trying to get thrown in the 20-year club like Kobe.
Brendan: The only drama in this farce is what happens at the end, in April. No Jim the Lakers are not making the playoffs. Just for the theater aspect I want Kobe to have a brilliant year, brilliant for a 37 year old who has played a million minutes. Let Jim walk the walk then. Stare in the eyes of the tiger and don’t blink. I don’t think he has it in him.
Let’s say Kobe manages to stay healthy and has a good season, 22 points, 44% shooting. Should the Lakers bring him back on a one year deal? How much is he worth? Keep in mind that next season the Lakers will have more money than anyone, $60 million.
Alex: This situation reminds me a bit of Derek Jeter’s final years with the Yankees. Jeter was no longer the star he had been in his prime, but the Yankees certainly didn’t want the face of their franchise playing elsewhere. I could see a one-year deal happening if only to put a familiar face on the ongoing rebuild. It might also depend on what free agents Mitch Kupchak is able to put together. At his current salary of $25 million, nobody would want to trade for him, but if that figure were $10 million it could be intriguing. Still, it’s hard to expect the Lakers giving him a big pay cut if they want him back at all.
Dan: If Kobe puts up those numbers, I can see the Lakers try and bring him back on a one year deal, but it will ultimately be up to Kobe. If he put up those numbers and the Lakers end with a bad record or miss the playoffs, Kobe has one question to ask himself. Is it worth it to go through another long and strenuous NBA season in hope of a winning season? I believe he would end up retiring because Kobe is about winning; and if his contribution isn’t translating into winning then what is he playing for? Even if it ended in a winning season, I could not see the Lakers convincing Kobe to stay on a much smaller salary like Tim Duncan, and if they want to keep Kobe they will have to give up at least $10 million.
C.J.: He is worth what the Lakers pay him. That’s the basic rule of economics. The market determines worth, not performance. What no one knows is Kobe’s thirst for money in relation to his output. So when he was the best player he wanted to be paid like the best. But, a mercenary wants what he can get. Is that what he thinks all this is about? As far as bringing him back, I’d take a look at what I can get. They are not getting Durant or anyone on his level. I think the move to small forward will rejuvenate him. No more coming off of screens or getting picked off by the Omer Asik’s of the world. He can just run to his spot and shoot. So if the Lakers can’t snag a competent small forward to replace him, why not bring him back? They’ll still be a 30 win team.
Brendan: Give him $15 million. He’s Kobe.
Let’s think about this. Can Kobe be a mentor? He’s mellowed because that’s what happens when we age. We stop stressing. But can he do a total 360?
C.J.: I don’t care what anonymous G.M. guy thinks. Watching the Lakers is watching Kobe be Kobe. I hate when people accept you as you are only when they approve of what you are. It’s b.s. Let Kobe go out the way he came in. Clearly, he has formed a relationship with Julius Randle. Did you see that game when Randle fell in the air on his ass and Kobe jumped so high off the bench I thought he’d rip another Achilles.
Julian: He has so much knowledge but I’m not sure about the patient part of it. Remember when Magic was the coach. That was a disaster. I think he can only help Clarkson and Randle. They have demonstrated they have some game. Russell is a work in progress. No one knows who he is yet. He can make the oh-my-God pass but he can’t yet run a team. Anthony Brown is nice, a defender in this league. I think he’ll have a career. But he is too much a Kobe fan. Back to Russell, he doesn’t deserve mentorship after that McGrady crack.
Mallory: Yeah, that McGrady put down eliminates Russell from any Kobe study lessons. Kobe has so much experience but I don’t know if the type of experience he has has any value. These guys are just starting their careers. They are learning. They would get the most out of Kobe’s knowledge had they been around four or five years. I agree that Randle is the one who is the most likely to listen to everything Kobe says and then to put that into action.
Brendan: I think people underestimate Kobe’s ability to teach and influence. We’re not dealing with Smush Parker. I think once he does retire, these players will look back on this year and realize how special it was to have been around him.
Most Memorable Kobe Moment?
Valerie Morales: I have two. #8 Kobe. Game 4 in Indy in the 2000 NBA Finals. Shaq fouls out in overtime and Kobe tells Shaq- don’t worry, I got this. The game before he ripped up his ankle thanks to Jalen Rose. So he wasn’t even 100% but he dominated the Pacers, inside and outside to win the game. That game made him a star. The Lakers went up 3-1. The series was over. The other was a game in Portland, last game of the regular season. He hit a three to send the game into overtime with Ruben Patterson basically on top of him. Then in overtime he hit a three over Theo Ratliff to win the game. That was the 2004 Lakers team with Gary Payton and Karl Malone that lost to Detroit in the NBA Finals and ended the Kobe/Shaq era.
C.J.: I’ve seen a lot of games at Oracle that Kobe made seem like it was his arena. But I’d say the one with him and Jamison was a classic. Both had 51 points. Both made ungodly shots. Jamison was more efficient but it didn’t matter. It was a game for the ages, one you remember the rest of your life. Of course, the Warriors won. But, man…
Brendan: The 81 points. Enough said. 81 points. In a NBA game. With Chris Bosh and Jalen Rose on the other team. Like you couldn’t throw Bosh on Kobe to stop draining three’s?
Julian: Western Conference Finals 2010. In Phoenix. Game 6. Lakers were up by 3 with two minutes left. Kobe with a spin jumper. Lakers up by 5. Kobe with a step back, double pump jumper, pats Alvin Gentry on the butt. Lakers up by 7. Game over. Series over.
photo via llananba