There is no buyer’s remorse in Hollywood. The Los Angeles Lakers insist they’ve gotten everything they bargained for from their recent re-signing of an aging and again prematurely discontinued Kobe Bryant.
In case you’re counting, it’s now three up and three down for Bryant in terms of consecutive seasons in which he has gone down early with crippling, season-ending injuries. And the variance of them, a torn Achilles’ tendon, a fractured knee, and now a torn rotator cuff, have been emblematic of his downward spiral.
And yet, with clear composure and a straight face, GM Mitch Kupchak recently insisted there isn’t one thing the organization would now do differently from what they did in 2013 in inking the then 35-year-old Bryant to the two-year, $48.5 million extension that seemingly has brought all their best laid plans to a uneventful halt.
Bryant has managed to play in just 41 games since the Lakers sealed that deal and their future is as uncertain now as it seemed then when they were faced with the threat of losing arguably the storied franchise’s most esteemed club member.
And still, Kupchak insists there is total clarity and no regrets within the Lakers’ board room – “100 percent” he said to the quizzical probe of if they would do it all over again.
It all makes you wonder if the Lakers should truly be revered as the saints Kupchak would have you believe they are based on their sense of loyalty or if he is desperately trying to sell you a bill of goods, frantically seeking to cover his backside for a move that would almost certainly cause any other senior level exec of his stature his livelihood.
“To me a big part of Kobe’s contribution next year is if we can improve this team during the off-season,” Kupchak reasoned. “That’s what we expect.”
But what of Lakers’ fans, what can they earnestly expect from a franchise that seems to lack any long-term vision or the thought of constructing any roster not headlined by Kobe Bryant? It’s already clear to all of Hoops Nation that Bryant, brilliant as he has been, will never again be the marvel he once was. At the very least, the Lakers’ have to know not even this clearly deduced version of him can last forever.
The prognosis for Bryant’s return from his latest shoulder injury calls for a nine month healing period. Where he and the Lakers, still paired as one, go from there is anybody’s troubled guess.