Kobe Bryant has a plan.
With the Los Angeles Lakers approaching their most pivotal offseason in years, the Black Mamba has every intention of ensuring that his will be done. And that will includes convincing Dwight Howard to remain in Hollywood and persuading the Buss family to hold on to Pau Gasol as well.
What, you didn't think Coach Kobe was going to sit this summer out, did you?
The Lakers have a lot riding on this offseason; Kobe has a lot riding on this offseason. Though he's previously said he's not ready to retire, his ruptured Achilles serves as a reminder that time is running out.
If Kobe wants to get that sixth championship ring of his (and he does), he has to make a play for it now, not later. He might not be around for "later."
Naturally, he'll then want a say in how the roster is assembled. Knowing how financially strapped the Lakers are, he understands that they'll have to make the biggest splash by swimming in their own pool.
Los Angeles cannot go out and offer stacks of cash to free agents of its choosing. That's why retaining Howard is so important. If the Lakers cannot sell him on staying, they don't get to take that money and give it to someone else. They'll simply be down one superstar.
But not if Kobe can help it.
Although the two have admitted they're not "best friends," they've reached a mutual understanding. Or at least Kobe has. For him to win now, he knows he needs Dwight. And Pau, too.
Which player will begin next season on the Lakers?
Gasol is coming off the worst season of his NBA career and will likely never be the four-time All-Star he once was, but Bryant sees the value in his presence.
The two are incredibly close. Emotions, then, stand to cloud Bryant's judgment. At the same time, Gasol is worth more to the Lakers than whatever they would net in any trade for him. Kobe gets this as well.
These Lakers are headed for an inevitable overhaul—a rebuilding project that Kobe will do everything he can to delay at least one more year.