The offseason cannot get here fast enough for the Los Angeles Lakers.
After all, they are one of the worst teams in the NBA recordwise, lost their lottery pick Julius Randle to a season-ending injury in the first game of the season and recently saw the legendary Kobe Bryant go down for the season with injury as well.
Fortunately for Lakers fans, the offseason presents an opportunity to improve the team for next year. With that opportunity comes rumors about potential moves and free agency.
Here is a look at the latest whispers from Los Angeles.
Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times provided an update on Bryant’s future plans:
Mike Bresnahan @Mike_Bresnahan
Those around Kobe say he is definitively coming back to play next season. Doesn't want to go out like this.2015-1-26 21:33:29
Bryant will miss the rest of the season after shoulder surgery for a torn rotator cuff, but it’s not as if the Lakers were heading for the playoffs with him on the floor anyway. Bryant discussed the notion that he will decide for himself what his intentions are for next season as opposed to listening to others, via ESPN.com: "I don't really listen much to what people have to say, to be honest with you.”
Bryant will be 37 this offseason and is the NBA’s highest-paid player.
While he is no longer the explosive game-changer he was in his prime, he was still putting up solid numbers in the first half of the 2014-15 campaign before the injury. In fact, Bryant was posting 22.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game on the season and even scored 44 points against the Golden State Warriors in November.
If the Lakers were to add a couple of productive pieces in the offseason, Bryant could certainly still be part of a winning formula in Los Angeles.
Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report passed along the latest on the offseason blueprint for the Lakers:
Even if top unrestricted free agents such as Marc Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love, DeAndre Jordan, Greg Monroe and Rajon Rondo (or restricted free agents Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler and Draymond Green) don't want to come to the Lakers or switch teams at all this summer, the Lakers do plan on upgrading the roster in some meaningful way.
This offseason will certainly be one of the most interesting in recent memory for the Lakers. On the one hand, they clearly want to bounce back after what promises to be a disappointing 2014-15 campaign, but they also don’t want to mortgage any future chance they have at landing a megastar like Kevin Durant with a reactionary, short-term move.
Fortunately for Los Angeles, it will potentially have more than $20 million to offer free agents this summer, but Bryant’s astronomical contract will come off the books in 2016. Any contracts signed this offseason could impact the plans for future summers down the road.
It is not difficult to envision a scenario where Bryant returns next season to a team with a healthy Julius Randle, a top-five draft pick as a result of all the losing this year and perhaps a productive free agent or two. That roster would at least be more competitive than the one we have seen this season.
The question the front office will ultimately have to answer is how much it is willing to spend to make that happen for next year as opposed to how much it wants to save for a potentially massive spending spree in 2016.
As long as the discussion is centered on Los Angeles’ plans for next season, Bresnahan passed along an interesting update:
Mike Bresnahan @Mike_Bresnahan
Source: Kobe will also be active in free-agent recruiting for the Lakers, including pitches to possible future teammates in July.2015-1-26 21:34:31
There are few players who could make as convincing of a sales pitch as Bryant across the entire league. For one, he has five championship rings to show off to potential free agents, but it is about more than just the winning in his past.
After all, who understands the benefits and lifestyle of being a star for the Lakers in Los Angeles better than Bryant? Between the favorable weather during the winter season to the legendary Staples Center crowd, there is something to be said for the lure Los Angeles offers outside of what happens inside of the actual lines on the court.
Whether Bryant can portray that to some of the league’s top free agents this offseason remains to be seen, but the Lakers could certainly use an overhaul within the next year or two if they hope to compete for another championship ring.
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