After losing Kobe Bryant to a season-ending injury, the Lakers face a summer full of questions. Will they keep the core of Kobe, Nash, Gasol, and Howard together or will they start brand new? Will Dwight Howard re-sign with the team or will he bolt to another team? Will Kobe Bryant be the same player when he returns from his achilles injury?
If it is over for the Lakers, there is nothing to be ashamed of. They have been blessed enough to have one of the greatest competitors of all-time in Kobe Bryant. Since last year, the Lakers have been the big brother of the Los Angeles Clippers. Kobe’s squad has had a dynamite winning percentage over the last ten seasons or so.
Pau Gasol came to Kobe Bryant’s rescue in the 2007-2008 season. Kobe had demanded a trade but the Lakers were able to convince him to stay by trading for Gasol. The Lakers won back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010. Their run as one of the NBA’s elite teams ended after the 2010-2011 season. The Lakers were desperately searching for answers after the 2011-2012 campaign. They were somehow able to pull in Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to play along Kobe and Gasol. That was supposed to solve their problem.
But things don’t always work out the way they’re expected to. It wouldn’t be as easy as it sounded with three of those four players past their prime. Steve Nash struggled with injuries all season long. Pau Gasol also battled through injuries and had an up-and-down season. Dwight Howard was uncomfortable in his role for much of the season. Kobe literally had to carry the team on his shoulders. He finally broke down after playing an unreasonable amount of minutes per game.
The absolute biggest question is Dwight Howard. After a disappointing season, is he looking to proceed with his career elsewhere? It doesn’t get much better than L.A. in terms of scenery. But nobody really knows if Howard is willing to stay patient. He was quietly begging to get out of Orlando so the contemplation of switching teams again would make him look unfavorable in the public.
Let’s hypothetically say the Lakers sign Howard to a longterm deal. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Lakers decide to take another stab at it. Kobe would likely sacrifice some of his scoring and place more emphasis on being a distributor. The team would have to start revolving around Howard. If he is to stay in L.A. for years to come, he is the building block. So if Dwight does stay, the Lakers may just go another year and play it by ear.
In the case of Dwight leaving, they would likely have to remake their roster. Kobe would probably stay and Gasol’s contract would expire after the season. Steve Nash may not even be playing next season from the looks of his current condition. With Dwight leaving, they would still be well over the cap so they wouldn’t have the opportunity to sign a big name free agent.
To add to that, there is the fact that Kobe isn’t in it to lose anymore. Kobe either has a great, competitive team or he retires. Therefore, Dwight leaving could cut Kobe’s career short. He may see no reason in continuing to play if there is no hope for him to win another ring.
While the Lakers seem to be hitting rock bottom, don’t ever count them out. The undeniable power of this organization may just do something to bring the squad back to life.
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