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Derrick Rose Should Start Recruiting Kobe Bryant Immediately
Not only is Bryant facing an uphill climb from a devastating Achilles injury that robbed him of a chance to play in the playoffs, he could return next season to find what was once a full cupboard stripped bare. It is exactly the kind of situation that could force a man into a tough decision to seek out a new home rather than stay and watch the old one crumble. That is why star point guard Derrick Rose should not wait until next year to start recruiting him.
Dwight Howard changes the game for the Los Angeles Lakers
Things didn’t end the way Laker fans had hoped. After Los Angeles traded for star center Dwight Howard and landed future Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash in free agency, it seemed the only thing stopping them from getting Kobe his sixth ring was themselves. Sadly that is how it played out. Nash and Howard struggled with injuries early in the season and just when they were starting to get healthy, Bryant went down. At age 34 nobody knows if the Lakers leader will return to form next season or if his aging body has had it. Complicating the fact is what can happen to the teams' core in his absence.
Nash turns 39 next season. His time in the NBA is coming to a close after a brilliant career. No one would feel shocked if he chose to retire. Meanwhile, Howard caused headaches galore when he broke the news he was thinking about leaving in free agency for another team, citing the Houston Rockets as a possible landing spot. With vivid memories of his trade saga back in Orlando, it is a circus nobody wants a part of. Yet, facts are facts. Howard believes he just doesn’t fit the system Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni runs. Moving to a team that will maximize his skill makes more sense to him. That is not good news for Los Angeles. They had planned from the beginning to bridge the superstar gap from Kobe to him. He was their answer for the future. If he leaves not only is that plan scrapped, it could set the organization back a few years. That is time Bryant doesn’t have.
Chicago Bulls expect to cut the Carlos Boozer weight in 2014
Free agency is not much of an option for the Chicago Bulls this year. While they would love nothing better than to spend some money to find help, the reality is they don’t have it. A big reason is most of their cash is locked up in current starters. The name that gets tossed around by fans a lot is Carlos Boozer. The power forward came to the Windy City in the midst of the failure by the front office to land LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh. As a result they overpaid to make sure they got Boozer. Since then his impact has been good, at times, but not worth $15 million a year. This has caused an uproar for the Bulls to use the amnesty clause which would allow them to buy him out his contract. However, since they would have to pay him for the season and he would be free to sign somewhere else, it’s better if Chicago gets what they can out of him.
That could change in 2014. By then the amnesty clause is far more viable since Luol Deng is a free agent that same year. Those corresponding moves would clear $32 million off the books and open the door for the team to use a max level contract on a free agent. GM Gar Forman wouldn't have to worry about losing Deng since second-year man Jimmy Butler proved every bit as good during the playoffs this season. That means the Bulls could use their money to go after any star they want. Common sense says they should take a second stab at LeBron, Wade and Bosh. Then again, after getting jilted once before, they are better served having a backup plan in case that route is a dead end.
Making sense of the Kobe Connection
So why Kobe? There is no guarantee he will even leave L.A. or if he will return to his typical form that’s made him an all-time great.
To answer that is to do something people have done for years: compare him to Michael Jordan. Bryant averaged 27 points in 2012-2013 at age 34. By June of 2014 he will sit two months away from turning 36. Jordan ended his reign in Chicago at age 34, sat out for two seasons then made a comeback in 2001 with the Washington Wizards at 38. Despite age, rust and a bad team around him, he still averaged 22 points per game. If the comparisons are fair for Bryant then he should have what it takes to put up something similar.
The reason Chicago makes so much sense is they have a glaring need at shooting guard. A two-year experiment with veteran Rip Hamilton proved a failure. The Bulls need a second scorer next to Rose in the backcourt who can take advantage of the suffocating defense implemented by Coach Tom Thibodeau. To date they haven’t found anything. Their best scoring option this season was Nate Robinson who was signed in the off-season as a bench player. His play late in the year was inspiring but not enough. He is a free agent in 2013 and not expected back. Since instant starters are hard to find in the draft, Chicago must hope they can find somebody next year.
The big roadblock to signing Bryant, besides the aforementioned, is price. Kobe will make $30 million from the Lakers next season. A player with over ten years of experience who is worth a max level contract must allot for 35% of the salary cap. That means the Bulls would have to pay him $24 million. Theoretically, Chicago could pay that but it is a steep price for a man turning 36-years old. It also would handcuff them from using any money to fill out other problem areas like the bench. So the best hope for the Bulls is if Bryant did leave the Lakers that he would take a pay cut to join a championship-caliber team. With Rose back and healthy by that point, Joakim Noah at center and Butler in the front court it is a lineup plenty good enough to make a run.
All that is left is for someone to remind Kobe that he can still retire a Laker even if he left for a couple last hurrahs somewhere else. “If it’s good enough for Jordan,” as they say. That responsibility falls to Rose.