There is a lot of history associated with the Los Angeles Lakers. Most of it is extremely positive. This is a franchise that’s been to the postseason 60 times and raised 16 championship banners in the process. As an organization, the Lakers have won a total of 3,218 games and become accustomed to a certain level of success. That, unfortunately, has not been the case lately.
The current 2014-2015 Lakers are as far from “Showtime” as they could possibly be. With a 21-59 record, the team is last in the Pacific Division and has the second-worst record in the Western Conference. Once again, the Lakers will find themselves with a high draft pick. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the team’s fortunes are about to change. For some players, it takes time to adjust to the rigors of the NBA; for others, like the Lakers’ Julius Randle, the first year in the league is spent rehabbing a season-ending injury. If you’re looking to win at this level, you need stars on your roster. The Lakers have one of the biggest names in the game. But he may also be the problem.
Despite shouldering his fair share of disappointment these past few seasons, Kobe Bryant is still one of the best to ever play the game. But he’s also known to be one of the more difficult people to play with. He’s competitive and intense and expects a lot from his teammates. And in 2014, he was criticized by Henry Abbott in an ESPN article that claimed Bryant was the reason other stars wouldn’t play in Los Angeles. But that’s not how everyone sees it — just ask Los Angeles Clipper Matt Barnes.
For those who believe that Bryant is responsible for the latest struggles in Lakerland, Barnes has a different viewpoint. While speaking with Chris Ballard of Sports Illustrated, the former Laker said:
The reason people don’t want to go to the Lakers is because of management. Kobe can be the scapegoat all they want but if you play hard, Kobe likes you. And if you bulls— around, he doesn’t. It’s plain and simple. He’s not a vocal leader. He just expects you to play as hard as you can every minute on the court, like he does.
This makes sense if you think about it. Bryant wants to win just as much as the next guy, perhaps even more. He also understands what it takes to win and what types of players make that possible. He wants stars around him; he just wants those players to have the same drive as him. Look no further than his recruitment of Dallas Mavericks guard Rajon Rondo. Bryant knows that the former Celtic is smart, talented, and would make the Lakers better. This doesn’t sound like the kind of guy who wants to push stars away. It sounds like the kind of guy who wants to figure out a way to bring the Lakers back to the promised land.
This upcoming offseason is crucial for the Los Angeles Lakers. Bryant is clearly nearing the end of his illustrious career, and the team is going to have to start moving in a different direction. If stars haven’t wanted to wear the gold and purple because of No. 24, then this would be the perfect time to sign with the franchise. The Lakers will have plenty of cap space this summer, and there are some stars who see Los Angeles as a potentially perfect fit. Unless, of course, Bryant really isn’t the problem after all. If Barnes is speaking the truth, the Lakers have bigger things to worry about. Hollywood certainly loves its drama. This summer should be filled with plenty of it.
All statistics are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.