The Los Angeles Lakers Must Dump Kobe Bryant
It is a phrase west coast fans will find inconceivable. Teams don’t just do things like it. Yet it continues to stare the Los Angeles Lakers in the face. Should they cut ties with Kobe Bryant before the next NBA season?
Proof in the stats
For an idea of what Lakers fans could have to look forward to, they need only glance at previous basketball history in regards to Achilles injuries. Doctors at Drexel University did a study on the injury to basketball players. Of 18 men they talked to who played between 1992 and 2012, only eight were able to return for more than one season. Seven didn't return at all. In fact, the great point guard Isiah Thomas, who was an All-Star in 1993, ended his career a year later when he suffered a rupture to the tendon. What is worse, players on average experienced a 4.64 point drop in the Player Efficiency Rating. This is a number that is devised by calculating the value of every statistical category. In the 2012-2013 season, LeBron had the highest rating at 31.67. Kobe sat comfortably at 21.30. If the trend for this injury holds true, that number will drop to around 18.46. This puts his value at the same level as Milwaukee Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova (10 points, 6 rebounds and 1 assist per game).
What makes it even more daunting is the nature of those who came back. On average the players involved in the study were 29-years old. The biggest success story was All-Star Dominique Wilkins (32) of the Atlanta Hawks, who came back a year after an Achilles tear and averaged 30 points. However, he was two years younger than Kobe is at present and had logged 26,559 fewer minutes of basketball wear and tear on his body. Any older player will say it gets harder and harder to come back from injury the more minutes you play.
Dwight Howard and Mike D’Antoni issues smother Kobe question
There is an obvious reason as to why Laker fans aren’t even thinking about such an idea. Bryant has carried the franchise for so long that they fully expect him to return from the devastating Achilles injury that knocked him out just prior to the playoffs. It’s understandable. Kobe has proven enough times that he can conquer adversity. Regardless, it is beside the point. His injury is only part of the reason L.A. should cut him loose.
Over the past month the Lakers franchise has wallowed in a cloud of uncertainty. All eyes stand fixed on free agency that will begin after the season ends. It is at this point that star center Dwight Howard, coming off his first season in purple and gold, has the option to leave the team for a new home. Los Angeles knew the risks when they traded for him last year but had fully expected to eventually reach a long-term deal to make him their building block for future success. So it must’ve come as a slight gut shot when Howard casually told reporters he might consider moving to a different team next season, citing the Houston Rockets as a possible landing spot.
The reasoning behind this decision wasn’t hard to uncover. Howard believes he is a bad fit for the system Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni installed when he was hired. He isn’t wrong. D’Antoni’s coaching style has roots in the European leagues. Over there the basketball is more wide open, fast paced and offensively-oriented. That does not accent Howard’s game which is built on physical play in the paint, tough defense and rebounding. His services would work better on a team that runs a half court system rather than a fast break. Unless the Lakers are willing to dump D’Antoni that doesn’t figure to change.
How it impacts Bryant is based on a domino effect. Simply removing D’Antoni isn’t enough. They must shape the roster around Howard from the ground up. Having Bryant on the floor demanding the ball so many times a game is just as bad.
Cutting Kobe will open the LeBron James door
What Howard needs, should the Lakers find a way to keep him, is a roster built on taking advantage of his presence in the middle. That means a solid point guard or other player who can pass and sharpshooters from the perimeter. Los Angeles did sign Steve Nash but he alone couldn’t enact that plan with Bryant still the focal point of the offense. The Lakers also didn’t have enough cap space to collect the other pieces needed.
This is the second part of why Bryant must go. At age 35 and coming off a bad injury he will command $30 million in salary cap space. That is a number paid to a player who has five rings and Hall of Fame credentials. It also became too much the instant he went down. There isn’t any way for the Lakers to know how effective Bryant will be when he returns. Older bodies take longer to heal and no team should have to fork out that much cash to a guy who isn’t a superstar anymore. Add to the fact that Kobe is a free agent in 2014 anyway and it starts to make too much sense.
There is one added fact that fans wonder about. If the Lakers could keep Howard and free up that space, would they become favorites to land LeBron James next year? He too is scheduled to become a free agent, and with Miami Heat teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh also hitting the market, it is likely he could look for a new home. The thought of a James/Howard pairing would certainly frighten a lot of teams around the league.
NBA reality isn’t pretty
Facts are facts. Bryant is not the same player he was, and shouldn’t be getting paid or treated that way. He can still score but he simply isn’t young or healthy enough to put a team on his back. Los Angeles can’t let nostalgia get in the way of the business of winning. It’s time to fish or cut bait.