The Los Angeles Lakers are entering next season with probably the most uncertainty they have faced in close to a decade. With their season in flux, the Lakers will need Kobe Bryant in a multitude of facets in order to keep their season and their future afloat.
Even their previous transitional period following the departure of Shaquille O'Neal was more secure because they knew they had Bryant (who was arguably the best player in the league at the time) to build around.
As the Lakers' tumultuous future approaches, the Lakers are going to need Bryant to be receptive to different scenarios. He is going to have to be open to doing what is best for the team and to stay loyal no matter what happens.
There is a very real possibility that Bryant can miss the majority of next season and come back as a shell of his former self.
In terms of on-court production, the Lakers can't expect the 27.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game he gave the Lakers this season. If Bryant does end up back in a Lakers uniform before the end of the regular season, expect some rust and some very mitigated minutes for the veteran.
While Bryant's drive and determination will urge him to try to be the Black Mamba of old, it's going to take Bryant some time to adjust. The Lakers cannot place the onus of the responsibility on Bryant to keep the team relevant once he does return.
Making roughly $30.0 million next season, perhaps Bryant's most useful contribution to the team is the fact that he is eligible for the Lakers to use the amnesty clause on.
By eradicating Bryant's contract from hindering the Lakers' salary cap, the Lakers will have a lot more capital with which to rebuild their roster.
Whether or not they re-sign Dwight Howard or not, amnestying Bryant will allow the Lakers a lot more financial flexibility to sign the types of players they need to either retool or to conform to Mike D'Antoni's original, run-and-gun vision.
Consider the fact that Kobe Bryant only has a year left on his contract. By using the amnesty clause on Bryant, the Black Mamba can spend the entire season rehabbing and working his way back into form.
This will allow Bryant more time to recoup instead of trying to rush back prematurely and will seriously relieve the Lakers' salary cap space.
If Bryant would be willing to do so, he can re-sign with the Lakers following the 2013-2014 NBA season on a discounted contract to finish his career with the Lakers in hopes that they've retooled sufficiently enough to contend for a championship one last time before he retires.
While it may seem like a slap in the face to Bryant if they were to amnesty him after all of his loyal years of service and the numerous titles he helped them win, it could really help the Lakers if Bryant were to conform to this plan.
What the Lakers really need from Bryant is a little more sacrifice and to absorb a blow to the ego. Amnestying Bryant could be the best thing to jump-start the Lakers back into the playoff picture.