Kobe Bryant Calls This Season 'S--t,' Says Next Year Will Be 'Epic'

Grant HughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistApril 16, 2014

Getty Images

Kobe Bryant, blunt as ever, is ready to move on.

The Los Angeles Lakers will not participate in the postseason for just the third time in three decades, Bryant logged only six games in an utterly lost season and on most nights, the roster featured names you'd expect to see on a middle-of-the-pack D-League team.

So, if Bryant wants to send all thoughts of the 2013-14 campaign swirling into the figurative porcelain abyss, it's hard to blame him—even if a thorough scrubbing at a water treatment plant still might not be enough to wash the stink off such a foul-smelling season.

Nobody who saw a shred of this past Lakers season could argue with the Mamba on his first point.

It's the second half of Bryant's tweet that should meet with some skepticism.

Epic, Kobe? Really?

Credit No. 24 for his optimism, but also remember this Lakers team is a long way from competing at any serious level. Whatever '"epic" connotes, it's probably a few steps above the mediocrity toward which L.A. is likely headed.

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 16:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers stands during a free throw against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on December 16, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloadin
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Bryant's health remains uncertain, hardly a surprise for a guy who'll turn 36 before next season starts. His contract stands as the largest hindrance to a complete rebuild in Los Angeles, but the Lakers do have some money to spend nonetheless.

Only Bryant, Steve Nash and Robert Sacre are guaranteed to collect checks from the Lakers next year, which means general manager Mitch Kupchak could have more than $20 million of cap room to play with.

Maybe the Lakers will become players in the free-agency sweepstakes, targeting big names who could exercise early termination options like Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony. They'll certainly place a phone call to LeBron James if he opts out as well.

December 25, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant (24) greets New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) following the 100-94 victory at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

They'll also have a lottery pick joining the fold and will fill out the roster with short-term vets to bridge the gap between this season and the real free-agent frenzy in 2015.

Next season should be better (how could it be any worse?), but with the competition in the West, coaching uncertainty aplenty and the difficulty of acquiring transformative talent, "epic" seems out of the question.

Especially since Bryant's prediction of an "epic" season depends on the Lakers decision-makers doing their jobs competently. And as ESPN's Ramona Shelburne points out, the front office's best efforts to emulate the late Jerry Buss haven't gone so well—and might not get any better:

In many ways, his presence still guides Lakers decision-making, as if everyone at some point asks, "What would Jerry do?"

That should be a comforting thought. It certainly seems like a great compass. Yet sometimes genius loses something when you try to replicate it.

The Lakers need to forge a new identity and embrace the reality that they're not some exceptional franchise that can rely on its history to attract talent. Next season is about building a foundation—not chasing greatness.

Of course, Bryant will never see things that way. It's not how he's wired. And besides, we wouldn't want to hear any defeatist realism from him anyway.

Bryant's enthusiasm can be an asset if it motivates executives and teammates, but his impatience can be dangerous. Balancing those two qualities will go a long way toward ensuring the 2014-15 season doesn't stink as much as this one.