Pros and Cons of LA Lakers Shutting Down Kobe Bryant for Rest of the Season
That suggestion certainly has its merits, but it comes with some negative side effects as well.
Here are the pros and cons to shutting down the Black Mamba.
Pro No. 1: Recovery Time
His latest injury provides additional time for Bryant's Achilles' tendon to mend.
Bryant beat even the most optimistic timetables for his Achilles tear by a solid month. While he maintains that his knee injury is unrelated to the Achilles, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles, there are many out there (like Barkley) who believe that Bryant overcompensated for his Achilles, which led to the fracture in his knee.
Said Barkley on TNT's NBA Tip-Off, "And I think this had something to do with him overcompensating. Your body's always going to overcompensate."
Being forced to sit out another six weeks means Bryant can continue rehab on his Achilles as well as his knee, bringing the recovery time of the Achilles tear into the standard accepted range of nine-to-12 months.
Pro No. 2: Lottery Positioning
This is the big one for the Lakers.
They are already six games out of a playoff spot and on a six-game losing skid—with the last three coming against teams with a composite record of 27-69. By the time that Bryant gets back on the court, the Lakers will be in too big a hole to dig out of.
The best thing they can do this season is to get in position to nab one of the several top players who will be available in the upcoming draft to partner alongside a healthy Bryant next season.
There are currently nine teams with worse records than L.A., but the Lakers are very close to having the third-worst mark in the league.
The Chicago Bulls are mere percentage points behind the Lakers, but actually have one fewer loss this season. The Sacramento Kings have just one more loss while there is a pack of five Eastern Conference teams sitting just two losses in back of L.A.
The road to the No. 1 pick is still open.
Pro No. 3: A Definitive Direction
Coming out and declaring Bryant done for the year would be a positive, definitive step for the organization to take.
We all saw last season the turmoil and controversy that surrounded the Chicago Bulls with Derrick Rose's return always in question.
The Lakers can avoid the question of Bryant's return hanging over their heads by simply announcing that he will not re-join the team for the remainder of the 2013-14 season.
This would also solidify the roles of everyone else on the roster, as they would know they wouldn't be losing minutes due to the return of a superstar.
That could lead to L.A. discovering more about the talents of their young players, allowing them to decide which of them fit into the franchise's future plans and which do not.
Con No. 1: No Playoffs
This is the flip side of L.A. going for a top lottery pick.
The Lakers are a proud organization—and the most consistently successful one in basketball history. Over the past 37 years, L.A. has missed out on the postseason just twice. That's not a typo.
It would be considered a massive failure in Los Angles for that to happen again, especially since the Lakers entered the season with playoff aspirations.
However, while making the playoffs is a point of pride, being first-round road kill serves no practical purpose. You need only look back as far as last year to see that.
Con No. 2: Blind Faith in Bryant
From the Lakers' perspective, a big strike against sitting Bryant for the duration of this season is that they won't have any inkling as to which Kobe Bryant they will be getting for the next two seasons.
The organization just handed Bryant a very lucrative extension that will keep him the highest-paid player in the league through 2016. They saw how rusty and out of form he was coming back from his Achilles injury. With yet another setback on the table, shutting Bryant down would keep the Lakers from being secure in the return on their investment.
There is a segment of the basketball community—perhaps led by Charles Barkley—who believe that Bryant will never resemble the player he was even one year ago.
If that's the case, the Lakers won't know how badly they've overpaid their franchise player until that new extension has already kicked in.
Con No. 3: There Goes the Scoring Record
Bryant is currently 6,687 points behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the all-time NBA scoring record.
If Bryant does not play another game this season, his quest to become the NBA's scoring king would effectively be over.
Assuming Bryant calls it quits after his new extension expires in 2016, he would need to average a shade over 40 points per game over his final two seasons to catch Kareem.
Even if he comes back by the All-Star break and plays in L.A.'s final 30 games or so, it still may not be enough to break the all-time mark.
But it may have gotten him close enough that, by 2016, he would want to extend his career another season to go out as the league's foremost scorer.
This would be a rather selfish concern, but every Lakers fan out there is rooting for Bryant to break that hallowed record. Shutting him down for the rest of the 2014 campaign would make that chase unrealistic.