Los Angeles Lakers owner Jim Buss, general manager Mitch Kupchak and the rest of the team’s front office will be faced with the arduous task of putting a championship-caliber supporting cast around future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant during 2014 free agency. And it doesn’t sound like they’ll be getting any feedback from “The Black Mamba” moving forward.
According NBC Sports Pro Basketball Talk’s Brett Pollakoff, Bryant doesn’t want to have any input in possible free-agent decisions this summer.
“In all honesty, I don’t want it,” Bryant said.
Bryant has played just six games during an injury-riddled 2013-14 season.
While trying to knock the rust off after suffering an Achilles tear in April, the Laker legend averaged 13.8 points, 6.3 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 5.7 turnovers per game. He suffered a fracture to the lateral tibial plateau in his left leg on Dec. 17 against the Memphis Grizzlies and maintains that his recovery is “coming slowly,” per the Los Angeles Times’ Ben Bolch.
Management has an extremely tough road ahead, especially since Bryant doesn’t plan to recruit free agents to L.A., according to Dave McMenamin at ESPN.
Bryant added, however, that the front office has the cap space needed to make a short-term turnaround a reality, per Pollakoff:
“What we have coming up this offseason with the cap space and what we have ahead of ourselves seems to be right in the Lakers wheelhouse in terms of turning things around pretty quickly,” he said.
Of course, Bryant also said that he needs teammates who are as committed to winning as he has been throughout an 18-year career.
For people who don’t have the same kind of competitiveness or commitment to winning, then I become an absolute pain in the neck. Because I’m going to drag you into the gym every single day. If you need to be drug in, that’s what I’m going to do.
But for players that have that level of commitment, it’s very, very, easy. And we can wind up enhancing the entire group and elevating them to that type of level. But if we don’t have that commitment, man, I’ll absolutely be very, very tough to get along with. No question about it.
The Lakers entered the All-Star break tied with the Sacramento Kings for the worst record in the Western Conference. As a result, they’ll need more than a few tweaks to become a playoff contender as early as 2014-15.
The Lakers success depends on Bryant’s level of play—as it has for more than a decade. With that said, he can’t take this team to the playoffs alone.
Summer will play host to numerous big-name free agents including Carmelo Anthony, Lebron James and Chris Bosh. Los Angeles is an appealing destination for any athlete, but Bryant may have to prove to opponents in the second half that he can still play at an All-Star level before they consider joining forces with the 35-year-old star.
If the Lakers fail to land another star player beside Bryant, they may start to parallel the Phoenix Suns during the final years of the Steve Nash era. That front office let Amar'e Stoudemire leave via free agency and replaced him with a hodgepodge of additions including Hakim Warrick and Josh Childress in an attempt to remain competitive.
Instead, it led to two straight seasons out of the playoff picture before Nash was traded to L.A.
At this point, it appears that the Lakers' best bet will be Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Love when he becomes a free agent in 2015, according to an NBA general manager speaking anonymously to ESPN Insider. If that's the plan, it will be interesting to see how patient Bryant will be in the meantime.