So, the Los Angeles Lakers do have a pulse.
It's a strange time to be a fan of the franchise, to say the least. While Phil Jackson is working wonders—on paper, at least—in New York, Mitch Kupchak and his front office have ignored the instant-gratification desires of fans in favor of a traditional building approach.
Funnily enough, it's a strategy fans will likely thank him for in the long run. But right now? Pitchforks.
The Lakers missed on the big free agents and won't get a guy like Kevin Love. But there are transactions going down and other newsy items to examine, so let's take a look.
Wes Johnson Back in the Fold
Credit 27-year-old Wesley Johnson for one thing—he seized an opportunity and made the most of it.
Last year, with the roster decimated with injures, the Syracuse product was granted an average of 28.4 minutes per game, which allowed him to respond with career-high averages of 9.1 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.
For his efforts, the Lakers have brought back Johnson on a one-year deal, per ESPN's Chris Broussard:
Source: Lakers sign Wesley Johnson to 1 year, $1 million deal— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) July 19, 2014
Good for Johnson, who had never truly been able to find a role in the pros after being selected No. 4 overall in the 2010 draft by Minnesota.
The Lakers are Johnson's third team in four years, and they may be his last for quite some time if he continues to improve at a noticeable clip in most areas:
It's only a one-year deal, sure, but that's more a product of the Lakers hoping to be major players in 2015 free agency than their unwillingness to commit to Johnson over the long haul. He's young, continues to develop and has improving outside shooting that makes him a valuable commodity.
Johnson won't see nearly as many minutes again next season, but he's a great developmental stash and role player.
Kendall Marshall, Not So Much
Much like Johnson, Kendall Marshall exploited one of the worst seasons in Lakers history to his gain.
The No. 13 overall pick in the 2012 draft by Phoenix has bounced around with three teams in two years and had a brief stint in the D-League. He was brought on solely to soak up minutes with Steve Nash and a host of others injured, but quickly ran away with starting duties:
Only 2 NBA players avg'd 8+ assists/gm & made 39% or better on 3's. Steph Curry & Kendall Marshall. One of them got waived today.— AdamWexlerCSN (@awexler) July 18, 2014
As a result, the Bucks capitalized on the Lakers' decision to serve him walking papers to free up cap space and were rewarded his contract after claiming him on waivers, according to The Associated Press, via ESPN.
It's a heck of a career move for the 22-year-old point guard, who now gets to benefit from playing with Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
For the Lakers, it is a rather significant loss. Ignoring that Nash is still around, fans can only hope that Jeremy Lin turns out to be the right man for the job. He's an excellent slasher, but one can certainly make the argument Marshall was the better fit for the job—especially with Lin failing in Houston, where another 2-guard wanted the ball in his hands at all times.
It will be more of a hindsight verdict on the Lakers' end, but we can discern one thing right now—Marshall won.
Kobe Opens Up With the End on Approach
It's no secret that Bryant is headed for the age of 36 sooner rather than later, and that soon to follow will be the end of a legendary career.
Bryant's a realist. He knows this is as well as anyone, and in a recent interview concerning his new documentary, he was quite candid on the topic, as captured by ESPN:
"I'm afraid, too,'' he said Friday at the summer TV critics' meeting.
"You really have to lean on muses and mentors going forward, just as I did as a kid. It's about having that next wave of things, which is scary as hell, but it's fun at the same time.''
While sad, Bryant is human like anyone and will eventually have to hang up the sneakers. His appearing in just six games a season ago put a damper on things, and there is no way to guarantee he'll see more time than that next year.
Obviously, Bryant wants to contend for titles as his career fades to black, but he has sat idly by this offseason and watched the Lakers whiff when it comes to big targets. But again, he's a realist. He understands the front office has done what it can, as illustrated by ESPN's Ramona Shelburne:
Kobe: "I can sit here and tell you with 100 percent honesty that I'm happy with the effort the organization put forward this summer"— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) July 18, 2014
Kobe "I think Mitch has responded quite efficiently (from missing on Melo/Pau) by picking up some of the pieces he has"— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) July 18, 2014
Bryant has two years left on his current deal. Per Spotrac, it pays him $23.5 million next year and an additional $25 million the year after.
The thought for now seems to be that Bryant will get his title shot in the final year of his contract if Kupchak and Co. can lure an unrestricted player such as Rajon Rondo, Love or LaMarcus Aldridge to town during the 2015 offseason.
Regardless, a very human Bryant still has plenty to play for in 2014.