Reports indicate that Kobe Bryant told Mickael Pietrus (right) he wanted him on the Lakers. But is Pietrus the only NBA player Kobe should target this offseason?
It's no secret by now that the Lakers could enter next season virtually unchanged from last year except for the rookies. They may only be able to sign one or two free agents, and I've already discussed potential free-agent targets that folks aren't talking much about but should be high on the Lakers' list.
This list is more for guys who Kobe Bryant should take an interest in bringing to the team for various reasons. They're players that Bryant would respect—mostly veterans who know their roles and can be counted on to be reliable cogs in the Lakers' quest for the 2012 NBA title.
Without further ado, here are the players the Black Mamba should take a special interest in recruiting to his aid.
This one’s the inspiration for the list. Pietrus told the French newspaper L’Equipe that Bryant told him two months ago he’d love for him to be on the Lakers. In the same breath, he expressed dissatisfaction with his time in Phoenix last season. A perfect combo.
The long, lanky Pietrus would give the Lakers some much-needed athleticism and defensive help. He may not be a great scorer (8.5 points per game over eight seasons), but he can be a solid role player off the bench to provide a spark in Mike Brown’s defense-first philosophy.
With Shannon Brown opting out, Pietrus can slide into his role and at least contribute more effectively on one side of the ball than Brown did. And if Pietrus’ word can be trusted, he already has not just Kobe’s interest but that of other contenders, like Boston.
Prince may be on the downside of his career in Detroit, but he has something that will no doubt catch Kobe’s attention: a ring that was earned off how well he defended Bryant back in 2004.
Led by Prince’s efforts, Bryant shot 37 percent or below in all but one game of the 2004 Finals. It’s well known that his memory is as long as anybody's, so why not recruit an old foe for one last run at the NBA crown? He’s already done it with Ron Artest and Matt Barnes.
Prince would also benefit from playing one last year in front of his hometown crowd. He played for Compton Dominguez High School and was named State Player of the Year back in 1998. He’s still a solid defender, and he’d invigorate the fanbase as much as any other free-agent signing.
I spoke on Richardson in my other free-agent targets list, but now I'll say why Kobe should target him personally.
Bryant saw firsthand how Richardson gave the Lakers trouble in the 2010 Western Conference finals. He also knows that as a former Slam Dunk Contest champion, Richardson has evolved his game from being a high-flyer to a mid- to long-range threat on the perimeter that can still slash when necessary.
Bryant no doubt sees himself in J-Rich, so it's only fitting that he'd try to recruit him to L.A. since chances are the team won't get Dwight Howard. Thus, why not go after someone who could be a better fit—a physical guard who can shoot, slash, defend and strengthen the Lakers on the perimeter?
Notice a trend here? Guys are on this list because they played Kobe extra tough. Battier is no different, and fresh off helping Memphis taste its first postseason success, he’s primed for a phone call from his old nemesis.
Battier’s had a long, respectable career as a reliable shooter and shutdown defender. Lakers fans have known this full well, as he was a key reason the 2009 Western Conference semifinals series went seven games.
Joining forces with Bryant and old teammate Ron Artest in pursuit of a ring might be a perfect fit, and it could make the Lakers a wily, experienced team to fear on defense. It’d also help Battier’s claim as arguably the most successful ex-Duke Blue Devil in the NBA besides Grant Hill.
The Lakers need a good shooter off the bench. With Shannon Brown opting out of his contract, there’s a spot available for a proven, young veteran who can bring instant offense from the perimeter.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, so Kobe should look at the Eastern Conference champs to recruit some of their parts that were underutilized.
Enter James Jones and his 40 percent shooting from three-point land.
Jones, the most recent winner of the Three-Point Shootout during All-Star weekend, battled injuries that kept him out of the NBA Finals. With the Heat desperate to maybe attract healthier parts, it’d be a perfect situation for him to be wooed to the Lakers to help them in an area where they were lacking.