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With little—as in no—cash to spare, Kupchak has to both keep Kobe's seat warm and fill out a roster with at least serviceable talent. It's a daunting task.
The first and biggest question is who, at a Walmart price, can adequately replace Bryant while he's recovering?
Look no further than our ol' pal Shannon Brown.
Brown can play both the 2 and the 3. He's signed through 2014, but he's massively unhappy with an unexpectedly reduced role in Phoenix, and it's likely the Suns will get rid of him.
There's not even a general manager right now in Phoenix; the time is right to sneak in and grab Brown for the L.A. Lakers' second-round pick and a dispensible asset.
You know he would relish the chance to come back to L.A as Kobe's replacement and try to play Lou Gehrig to Kobe's Wally Pipp (note to Shannon: Wally Pipp in a cocaine-induced fever dream could never even restring Kobe's Nikes, but that's OK—we're not looking for you to make us forget No. 24. Solid nightly contributions will suffice).
The Lakers could also take a flyer on Corey Maggette, late of the Detroit Pistons. The former Los Angeles Clipper still has a house in the L.A. area—he's neighbors with Kobe, no less—and claims to be completely healthy, although he was persona non grata in the D.
For the rest of the roster, Kupchak has to think way out of the box, taking a chance on forgotten players or ballers past their time who might turn back the clock for one more year on basketball's brightest stage.
A seat-filler of a move would be to bring back Lamar Odom. The former fan favorite will resemble his former Lakers self in name and face only, but can still contribute off the bench.
At the point, a potentially affordable option is to watch which backup guards the Houston Rockets cut loose. Right now, the Rockets have a plethora, and they're sure to let at least one go.
The Rockets will certainly waive Francisco Garcia, who impressed in the playoffs, but who's not worth near his $6.4 million team option.
Also awaiting contract status are Patrick Beverley—a solid defender who overachieved both during the regular season and the playoffs—and Aaron Brooks (yes, the same Aaron Brooks who killed the Lakers in the postseason just a few years back).
The Houston Rockets acquired Brooks for some kite string and lint at the trade deadline. He'd be nice to have playing for L.A. versus against them.
In the frontcourt, Kupchak would do well to focus on Dorell Wright, who flew under the radar off the Philadelphia 76ers bench. He can shoot the three-ball and play competent defense.
And to back up Clark at center, signing a very affordable Jason Collins to a one-year deal would likely bring goodwill and pique fan and media interest, even if he'll add little to the stat sheet.