Kobe Bryant Says He Could Play Right Now If Lakers Were Contending

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistMarch 19, 2014

USA Today

The Los Angeles Lakers' season may be busted beyond repair, but Kobe Bryant's tough-guy persona is still intact.

Because, priorities.

Appearing on The Dan Patrick Show, the Black Mamba indicated he wouldn't be sitting out right now if the Lakers had something to play for, per producer Paul Pabst:

For real? This is neither what Lakers fans want nor need to hear right now.

You're tough, Kobe. We get it. 

But it was also the Lakers, according to Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding, who ruled you out for the rest of this season. You're not cleared to play and, at 35, with two years and nearly $50 million invested in your latest contract extension, you would be insane to play even if the Lakers were contending.

That makes this something of an empty dig that pales in comparison to his hawkish rant from before.

Not long after being officially shut down for the remainder of 2013-14, Kobe took direct shots at the Lakers' front office, warning them another year like this would be unacceptable.

From ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin:

Oh yeah, let's just play next year and let's just suck again. No. Absolutely not. Absolutely not. It's my job to go out there on the court and perform. No excuses for it. Right? You got to get things done. It's the same thing with the front office. The same expectations they have of me when I perform on the court is the same expectations I have for them up there. You got to be able to figure out a way to do both.

If Kobe wants to lob unflattering quips Los Angeles' way, then by all means, he should.

The Lakers gifted him with a lucrative, loyalty-driven extension before he returned from a ruptured Achilles, but that was hardly hush money. There is no dollar amount that can quell Kobe's candid need to win.

And while we can argue forever about why or why not he should have accepted less, the fact is he didn't. The Lakers didn't offer less, so he had no obligation to take a bigger pay cut if they promised him they could both win and pad his wallet with nearly 50 million greenbacks.

Put in that context, there are worse things Kobe could do. Trying to instill a heightened sense of urgency in the storied Lakers is well within the realm of his power and his responsibility.

Further criticizing their disastrous season by acknowledging he could play if it would mean anything is not. 

The Lakers are bad, and they know it. Coach Mike D'Antoni knows it. General manager Mitch Kupchak knows it. The Buss family knows it. Offering "if" statements that have no way of being validated does nothing, which means Kobe is either using ineffective means to light a fire under Lakers brass or futilely trying to perpetuate his superhuman persona.

Any way you take it, it's still useless.

Los Angeles will use 2014 and 2015 free agency in an attempt to return to winning ways. Fact. Kobe will not settle for below-average or mediocre basketball these next two seasons. Fact.

This latest soliloquy doesn't help the Lakers do any of that, it doesn't help them brighten a future they know is shrouded in mystery. Also a fact.

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 5:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers speaks to the media before a game against the Denver Nuggets at STAPLES Center on January 5, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Kobe has nothing to prove at this point in terms of dedication. We know he's a warrior. We know he believes nothing can destroy him. 

Most of all, we know he would play if he could, which he can't, and if the Lakers were winning, which they aren't.

There's nothing necessary or tough about telling us what we already know, and what is, at a time when he and the Lakers need to be looking ahead, irrelevant.