Watching Kobe Bryant these past few days made a few things very clear: He still has enough talent and ability to be one of the best players in the league, but age is catching up to him and unfortunately there does not appear to be enough talent around him to get him to the NBA Finals.
Sure, Black Mamba has dropped almost 40 points on the last few teams he has played against, but watching the rest of the Lakers on the court makes me doubt whether Kobe will ever win that sixth NBA Championship ring.
Bynum looks good—for now. Gasol appears to have recovered from his issues in last year's playoffs. Outside of those two guys, the team looks pretty ordinary. Not only do the Lakers look like they are just going through the motions, but the teams they are playing no longer seem to fear or respect the guys in purple and gold.
Let Kobe drop his 35 or 40 points each night, but keep everyone else in check and you have a chance at a win.
As competitive as everyone knows Kobe is and with the Lakers failing to secure the services of Chris Paul, Dwight Howard or any other significant free agent before the start of the season, how long will it be before Bryant gets restless? With Jim Buss now calling the shots for the team, how long will it be before management gets restless and begins to seek a trade for Kobe?
In fact, if the Lakers do not plan on making any additional moves to acquire more pieces to complete their championship puzzle, don't they owe it to the man who has helped bring five titles to Los Angeles to send him to a team that can help him get that sixth ring?
It looks like Buss is 100 percent committed to making Andrew Bynum the Lakers' new centerpiece, a fact that could soon signal the end of the Kobe era in Los Angeles.
It seemed unthinkable only a couple of seasons ago when the Lakers were competing for the franchise's 15th and 16th O'Brien trophies, but tell me that watching Kobe on this Lakers team does not remind a little bit of Scottie Pippen playing for the Bulls after Jordan left? Kobe is going to give everything he has on every play, but can we say the same thing about his teammates or the organization?
The Los Angeles Lakers have always been an organization that stays loyal to its stars—especially when those stars bring home championships. They gave both Magic Johnson and Kurt Rambis chances to coach in the 1990s, and they refused to trade both Kareem and James Worthy when it became clear it was time to rebuild.
When it comes to Kobe though, his contributions to the team and to the rest of the league might just warrant an exception—and a trade.