Jul 26th, 2007 by fathoops93
Kobe Bryant is probably trying to soak every bit of enjoyment he can from playing with Team USA. That’s because he’s looking at returning to basically the same Lakers team he’s been stuck with the last couple of years. You know, that team that Kobe said needed “serious changes” after he and the Lakers were ousted once again by the Suns in the first round?
Bryant’s frustration boiled over a few weeks after that, and subsequently he asked to be traded. Since then, Bryant has gone back and forth so many times on his stance that it’s doubtful even he knows what he wants at this point. What the Lakers can be sure of, however, is that Bryant isn’t happy with his team’s current make-up.
So in light of those offseason comments and Bryant’s trade demand, what has Lakers brass done to appease the superstar they refuse to trade? 1) Chosen Javaris Crittenton with the 19th pick in the first round, Sun Yue with the 40th pick, and Marc Gasol with the 48th pick; 2) re-signed Luke Walton for 6 years and $30 million; 3) signed Derek Fisher for three years and $14 million and 4) signed Chris Mihm for two years and $5 million.
First of all, it’s important to remember that Bryant wants to start winning now. It’s already a well-known fact that Kobe is tired of waiting on young talent like Andrew Bynum, Kwame Brown, and Jordan Farmar. In light of this, the Lakers’ draft strategy was certainly questionable. Crittenton is the epitome of “young, raw talent.” Sun Yu and Marc Gasol are basketball’s equivalent of grade B foreign movies. They’ll never develop into anything big enough to make an impact. This is all beside the fact that Phil Jackson is less than generous to rookies in terms of playing time.
Re-signing Walton for the contract they did wasn’t such a bad move in respect to his talent. It’s a bad move because it seriously restricts the Lakers’ financially for future player changes. If the Lakers are still unwilling to trade Andrew Bynum and no one wants Kwame Brown, then Lamar Odom and Walton are the only players with any set trade value on the team. Will teams be willing to take on Walton’s new contract in a potential deal? That’s doubtful at best.
Signing Derek Fisher was a half-hearted attempt to make Kobe rescind his desire to be traded. Lakers management is thinking: 1) he’s a really decent point guard, and that will make Kobe happier and 2) they were teammates during the championship years, so Kobe will get warm, fuzzy feelings of nostalgia. It’s highly doubtful that this signing will have the desired effect on His Kobeness. Also, Fisher’s almost-$5 million a year will eat up more of the Lakers’ cap space.
Re-signing Mihm is perhaps the only sound move the Lakers made this summer, as almost any team will ask for a 7-footer with an ounce of talent to be part of a trade. If the Lakers do make a move, Mihm may well be on his way out. If L.A. stands pat, Mihm will just be another icon of status quo mediocrity for Bryant to vent about.
Don’t forget what the Lakers omitted to do this summer. Indiana’s been ready and willing to hand the Lakers Jermaine O’Neal and spare parts for Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum. L.A. balked when Bynum became a requirement, and so far no adjustments have been made to make a deal work.
Lakers staff should’ve known this would irk Bryant to no end. Kobe was irate with management when they wouldn’t pony up the same aforementioned Bynum in a deal to land Jason Kidd. After witnessing Kidd average a triple-double in the playoffs and finding out the Lakers refused to land a legit low-post monster in O’Neal, is it any wonder that Bryant lost his cool and berated Bynum on a now famous YouTube flick?
Mitch Kupchak has expressed how the Lakers as an organization plan on improving the team around Kobe. If this is Kupchak’s vision of progress, however, Bryant may not have a decent team around him until he’s too old to care.