With the way things have been going for the Los Angeles Lakers this season, you have to wonder just how bad it could get—not just this season but beyond.
Kobe Bryant has long been the face of the franchise. In November, management decided to take a gamble, signing him to a two-year contract extension that would presumably end with his retirement at the end of the 2015-16 season.
While the idea of Bryant retiring as a Laker after his 20th season with the team holds obvious fanbase and marketing value, it does complicate the team’s budget going forward.
Adding to the team’s woes is the fact that Bryant returned for just six games before fracturing his left knee. Together with other key injuries and a roster primarily assembled from veteran minimum-salary contracts, the team has largely been foundering.
According to Dave McMenamin for ESPN Los Angeles, Bryant will have his knee reevaluated in early February and is determined to make it back this season, despite the team’s record:
The only thing I can afford to consider is getting better, getting stronger. I can't allow myself to think any other way. I can only think about the next step. To do anything else becomes distracting if you allow yourself, if you give yourself wiggle room to not push yourself as hard as you possibly can. To think about sitting out and this, that and the other, your motivation is all wrong. I refuse to think that way.
Of course, the possibility of Bryant rejoining the team also impacts next season and beyond. The Lakers’ abysmally bad record holds one silver lining—the possibility of getting into the lottery for the NBA draft at the end of the season. The Lakers have a first-round pick this season. If Bryant is able to come back and will his team to a better record, their draft chances will begin to go south.