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Los Angeles Lakers: When Kobe Retires, Who Should They Groom to Take His Mantle?

Pat MixonSenior Analyst IMarch 10, 2011

Los Angeles Lakers: When Kobe Retires, Who Should They Groom to Take His Mantle?

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    While the day Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant retires is far off, that day will come. And, while it seems like all the greats can play forever, the fact is that even the best of the best—Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and even Michael Jordan—one day hang them up.

    Sad and possibly cold as it may seem, Kobe Bryant will also walk away from the game he loves. And, with the way he trains and prepares, that day is a few years off. However, as all the talk of Kobe aging circulates, it does beg the question:

    When Kobe retires, who will the Lakers center their franchise around?

    It’s a solid question. The Lakers and their owner, Dr. Jerry Buss, settle for nothing less than for the franchise to compete for championships.

    This team isn’t about making the playoffs. So, don’t expect the Lakers to fall to the bottom of the standings when Kobe finally takes off his Black Mamba shoes.

    Now, bear with me and let’s act like there won’t be a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) this summer (which could change everything like going over the salary cap, a hard cap a la the NFL and even a reduction in the total cap for each team). All these factors would adversely affect LA and what it can do.

    But, think of it this way. There’s a lot of money being paid out to Kobe, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, etc. that would be freed up when they retire. In theory, all the Lakers would have on the books would be younger players like Shannon Brown and Andrew Bynum. That gives LA lots of dough to sign free agents.

    But who is either on the team to groom, or out there to bring in, that the team could build around to create another Laker dynasty?

    Let’s take a look at some possibilities.

Dream'in

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    Let's take a look at the dream'in players...

Kevin Durant

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    This is a big-time stretch when people talk about him to LA. He just seems a perfect fit for Oklahoma City and currently doesn’t seem to seek or even enjoy the limelight. Well, LA’s the center of that.

    So, while I love idea of Durant in purple and gold, I just doubt it is a real possibility. 

Blake Griffin

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Could Griffin simply switch uniforms and play in the same building?

    This might not be the biggest stretch when his contract runs—especially if there are any changes to free agency, including rookie contracts, as part of the new CBA.

    Griffin on the marquee LA franchise just seems fitting. This is a long shot given current rookie contract re-signings, but you never know.

Chris Paul

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Paul's days in New Orleans are numbered. The same could be said about that entire franchise.

    So, it’s easy to predict that Paul will go and play somewhere else. The only question is, where?

    The problem with Paul getting to the Lakers, although he would be a perfect fit with Andrew Bynum, is that Paul is a free agent next year. It’s doubtful the Lakers would be a place for him.

    So, he only gets to LA after Kobe retires if he signs a short deal with whatever team he goes to.

    This is a longer shot than most are picking for Paul to be in LA.

Deron Williams

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Williams might re-sign with the New Jersey Nets, but I have a feeling it could be a shorter-term deal. That would mean he’d be a free agent again in, say two or three years.

    That would be perfect timing for an exit to LA, especially if the Nets never turn into title contenders. D-Will would be a perfect fit alongside Andrew Bynum or another big center picked up in free agency.

Maybes

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    Here's some maybes—and I do mean "maybe."

Kevin Love

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    He’s on a small market team, and he’s a West Coast guy. You could easily see him playing alongside Andrew Bynum or another big free agent center and then partner with a point guard free agent signing.

    That would give the Lakers a massive reload with a great center, an All-Star point guard and then Love to be the human vacuum machine on rebounds.

    Interesting return for Love to LA?

John Wall

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Wall's a perfect point guard to go with Andrew Bynum as the Lakers would be looking to reload after the Kobe and Pau Gasol era. Wall won’t be super expensive either.

    As long as he doesn’t sign an extension with Washington, and assuming Wall’s on court play continues to improve, this is a real possibility for him to bail on the East Coast for LA.

    The new CBA is a factor here as the current one favors a team to keep its young stars.

    But, you never know. Wall would be a great player to build around.

Reality

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    Here are some players that are based in reality, with an actual potential to happen.

Dwight Howard

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Some call this fantasy. I call it Shaq possibility.

    As mentioned at the start, much of the free agency movement depends on the new collective bargaining agreement. But, assuming there isn’t a hard cap (not sure on this if), then there is no reason to think the Lakers won’t be able to reload through free agency.

    And what a better way than with Howard. Can you say 1996 all over again, a big All-Star center leaving Orlando for LA?

Andrew Bynum

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Let’s face it, Bynum has the chance to be the next face of the Lakers for two reasons.

    One, he’s already a Laker.

    Two, he can be an elite center in the NBA for years to come, as long as he is healthy.

    Now, that’s a big if, but again, if he is healthy, he’s a force, especially in a league short on big centers. He’s easily a focal point to build around. 

     

     

     

    Who is Kobe Bryant? Want to learn the details of Kobe Bryant’s legendary work ethic? Or why Kobe considers himself a “talented overachiever” or an “outcast” for much of his life? Check out the new book, The Kobe Code: Eight Principles For Success- An Insider's Look into Kobe Bryant's Warrior Life & the Code He Lives By, at www.PatMixon.com.

     

     

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