Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant recently took to Twitter to discuss several aspects of the franchise's developing future. He displayed an understanding of the business of the NBA, but his renowned competitiveness bled through in shades of gold and really stood out.
Bryant is turning 35 in August and is coming off of a torn left Achilles tendon, but any sign of dwelling on that was dismissed—as might be expected from the Black Mamba.
To kick things off with the first big development of the offseason, it appeared that Bryant utilized the 24-hour rule brilliantly regarding Dwight Howard's decision to leave the Lakers after just one season.
Rather than rail against him for leaving, Bryant was wisely classy in wishing Howard the best, but implied that he would show no mercy on him.
(Warning: Some language in the following tweet is NSFW).
I wish d12 the best honestly. I just find it hard to follow players that wanna kick my teams ass #thatsjustme— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) July 9, 2013
Howard certainly would have helped L.A. bid for a title next season, and the Lakers did come together better at the end of the season when their overall health improved and acclimation to Mike D'Antoni's system was enhanced.
It all came undone when Bryant got injured just over two games short of the regular season's conclusion, and the Lakers were then no match for the San Antonio Spurs in getting swept in the opening round of the playoffs.
Bryant was clearly not too rattled by Howard's departure—or at least didn't show it. What he did lobby for more was that mercurial forward Metta World Peace remained with the squad.
Unfortunately, that wasn't feasible given the difficult cap situation GM Mitch Kupchak is facing, and Metta World Peace was due to make $7.7 million this coming campaign.
Even before Bryant brought the Howard issue up to the Twitterverse, he discussed Metta World Peace's clutch three-pointer in the 2010 NBA Finals, which got Bryant his fifth championship ring:
This was where Bryant displayed his understanding of the collective bargaining agreement and referred to his departing teammate as a "new CBA casualty."
Metta World Peace is a lockdown defender, and although he's also on the back end of his career he would have still been an asset in the immediate future. Bryant believed that with World Peace, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash, himself and a couple other assets, the Lakers could contend for the Larry O'Brien Trophy in 2013-14.
The following tweet implies the Lakers are still debating what to do, but the Orange County Register's Kevin Ding reports that it's all but a done deal that Metta World Peace won't return:
Sweet a guy as he is, @MettaWorldPeace will be waived via amnesty by Lakers to save about $30 million, barring some late change.— KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) July 8, 2013
What Kupchak did reportedly do is fortify the frontcourt slightly with the pickup of seven-footer Chris Kaman, per Marc Stein of ESPN:
Lakers and Chris Kaman, I've told, have agreed to terms on one-year deal— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 8, 2013
It remains to be seen how he fits into the rotation with Jordan Hill, Gasol and second-round stretch-4 Ryan Kelly, but it's certainly a downgrade from Howard in any event.
A quote that Bryant sagely utilized by the late, brilliant Steve Jobs at least somewhat explains why he's venting about the team's future on Twitter, and confirms his status as the leader of the team:
"My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to make them better." Steve Jobs— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) July 9, 2013
How will the Lakers fare in 2013-14?
There was even speculation that Bryant would be amnestied because of his injury. After all, his contract is due to pay him $30.4 million in what is the final year of his deal. Perhaps he could have taken at least a bit of a pay cut to keep World Peace around, but a player of Bryant's caliber demands that sort of money.
It's never wise to count out Bryant's teams, but the Lakers definitely have work to do to be a factor in the Western Conference this coming season—much less bid for an NBA title.
Note: Salary cap information is courtesy of Hoopsworld.com.