Lakers Rumors: Buzz on Goran Dragic, Kobe Bryant and Rajon Rondo Trade Aftermath

The Los Angeles Lakers are nowhere close to being members of the NBA elite, but the team continues to generate compelling storylines.

Some narratives appeal to the morbidly curious or the fans basking in schadenfreude as this once-proud franchise struggles, while others are simply the latest discussion fodder for supporters who follow the team day in and day out.

The latest intrigue from Lakerland stems from the recent postgame comments of one Kobe Bryant. The Lakers lost Sunday to the Sacramento Kings 108-101, which ended a five-game skid for DeMarcus Cousins and company.

The Lakers were right there in it until they faded down the stretch. Bryant somehow scored 25 points despite 8-of-30 shooting from the field. According to Yahoo Sports’ Marc J. Spears, coach Byron Scott might have to rest Bryant for fatigue at some point:

Bryant acknowledged the possibility but refrained from giving a definitive answer on the matter, saying that it would take some time and self-assessment to come to a decision.

“It’s probably not that much of an option, really,” he said, via Antonio Gonzalez of The Associated Press (via NBA.com). ”I just have to look at the body, the amount of the workload, and see how it responds.”

Bryant does seem to be wearing down. He’s shooting just 33.5 percent from the field in December, down from 39 percent in November, per ESPN.com. He’s also fouling and turning the ball over at a slightly higher rate this month, which could suggest an inability to keep up with the speed of play around him. On the other hand, when the Lakers play on back-to-back nights, Bryant is averaging a robust 28.5 points per game.

Scott would be wise to rest Bryant. At 8-19, the Lakers aren’t even close to contending for a playoff spot in the loaded Western Conference at this point, and it could be an opportunity for players to spread their wings and prepare for like after Bryant. It would also save Bryant’s legs for point guard duties, which he has handled in close games at various times this season.

It’s tough to imagine the hypercompetitive Bryant being completely comfortable with sitting out a game while healthy, but one would hope he understands the toll being put on his body is rather remarkable. He’s averaging 35.4 minutes per game, tied for 15th in the NBA with Kemba Walker, who is 12 years Bryant’s junior.

Bryant isn’t just playing for this season; he’s also playing for 2015-16, when the Lakers have a half-decent chance of surrounding him with some talent.

The Lakers are practically devoid of notable trade assets as of now, making free agency and the draft their best routes to success. The franchise was unable to lure any big-name free agents to Tinseltown in the summer of 2014, but there is at least one player who wouldn’t mind taking his talents to Southern California.

Phoenix Suns point guard Goran Dragic, who’s contract does indeed expire at the end of this season, countered the narrative that free agents aren’t interested in joining forces with Bryant, via Newsday’s Mike Gavin:

CBS Sports’ Matt Moore noted in November why Dragic might consider leaving the Suns for the Lakers:

But the Lakers will have the money this summer to offer multiple top free agents max contracts, which would then in turn still give them cap room after the cap increase in 2016. So the Lakers could rebuild a championship core around Kobe Bryant if they can get two to buy into the promise of one another.

Still, Dragic is unlikely to be interested in that situation. Byron Scott had great years withChris Paul in New Orleans, but overall isn’t known for a wide-open offensive style which benefits Dragic, like the one he has with Jeff Hornacek in Phoenix.

Dragic is averaging 16.0 points and 4.1 assists per game this season, and his high-energy, competitive playing style would seemingly mesh well with Bryant. Point guard Jeremy Lin hasn’t fared well since joining the Lakers and has come off the bench lately for Ronnie Price, a development that even the most pessimistic Lakers fans (or optimistic Price supporter) probably wouldn’t have bet on prior to this season.

It’s quite possible the Suns could also trade Dragic this season if they fear he won’t re-sign with a team that also features the likes of Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas at the point guard/combo guard spot.

Of course, Dragic might not be the only point guard the Lakers try to snatch up in 2015. According to USA Today‘s Sam Amick, the Lakers attempted to land Rajon Rondo in a deal with the Boston Celtics.

“The Lakers inquired about a deal Thursday that would send forward Jordan Hill and a first-round pick to the Celtics for Rondo and forward Jeff Green,” Amick writes, “but the Celtics declined that offer, a person familiar with the details told USA Today Sports.”

ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne reported which aspect of a certain trade offer the two teams were unable to agree upon:

Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski also noted the Lakers and New York Knicks turned down three-way deals:

The Dallas Mavericks ended up making a better offer and landed Rondo, but as Sports Illustrated‘s Chris Mannix pointed out, the Lakers could still go after him at the end of this season:

That being said, Wojnarowski also suggested Rondo could be looking to sign an extension with the Mavericks, who as it stands offer a much more appealing long-term situation than the Lakers:

The Lakers inability to land Rondo speaks to the futility of their current situation. The paucity of tradable players makes it tough for them to complete deals and at the same time makes them an undesirable destination for free agents looking to contend. As Moore suggested, the Lakers would likely have to convince two star players to join Bryant and company at the same time. That’s going to be difficult in a thin 2015 free-agent class.

It’s quite possible the Lakers best chances to rebuild are when Bryant comes off the books. And if that’s the case, don’t expect him to sit around waiting for that day to come. He’ll be suiting up.

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Would Los Angeles Lakers Be Better Off Without Kobe Bryant?

Kobe Bryant is the Los Angeles Lakers.

That’s the problem.

Or, at least that’s the problem for whatever percentage of Purple and Gold loyalists want a sustainable, functional operation—one with the impersonal approach necessary to keep up in an increasingly analytical NBA.

There’s a whole other faction of Lakers fans for whom Bryant is most definitely not a problem. They’re the ones who just want to see No. 24 keep playing and keep wowing them with his willpower and shot-making. They want the familiar ride to continue because they’re afraid of the dark, uncertain future ahead.

They’re drinking in Bryant’s play, his practice rants and his alpha personality thirstily, even if it might be poison. They just want as much Kobe as they can get, while they can get it.

Are the Lakers better off without their icon?

That all depends on what you’d like the team to be.

 

Stats Don’t Lie

The Lakers are worse—substantially and irrefutably—when Kobe Bryant is on the court.

It’s true that Bryant’s bench minutes often come when the game is already decided, which allows his replacements to face reserves who are merely going through the motions. Maybe that partially helps explain the massive discrepancy in his on/off splits.

He plays alongside Carlos Boozer for more than 21 minutes per game, per NBA.com, and C-Booze’s on- and off-court splits are nearly as bad as Kobe’s. Maybe this is all Boozer’s fault.

It’s not, of course. There are just a few logically flimsy ways for Bryant apologists to explain away the statistical ugliness.

Just watching the Lakers, it’s obvious why Bryant has hurt the team’s production: He eats up possessions with low-percentage shots, stops the ball on offense and doesn’t set the tone on defense. He gets away with all of this because neither his coach nor his teammates can stop him.

Bryant has willed just about everyone around him into submission, as Grantland’s Zach Lowe noted on Twitter:

Nick Young would seem to be the exception, but that’s hardly surprising because he has successfully commodified self-confidence. The Swaggy P brand is built on unflinching self-assurance.

Jeremy Lin is more emblematic of how Bryant makes his teammates feel. Though neither Lin nor anyone else has spoken out directly against Kobe, it’s getting easier to read between the lines:

Unfortunately for the Lakers, Kobe’s support system isn’t doing much for him.

But he might be why there’s no decent help on the roster.

 

What Could Have Been

The Lakers lack talent for a number of reasons.

The NBA intervened three years ago and vetoed a trade that would have brought Chris Paul into the fold. Steve Nash’s body betrayed him the second he got off the plane at LAX in 2012. Dwight Howard wasn’t healthy and couldn’t get comfortable with the Lakers (partly because of Bryant, but you get the idea).

If we ignore those twists of fate, which is admittedly tough when analyzing the state of the Lakers, we see that Bryant is still partially responsible for the weakness of this roster. He makes too much money. And in a league where teams have to operate with finite finances, there’s no way to ignore the fact that he’s soaking up cash that could have been used to strengthen the roster.

Bryant is entitled to as much compensation as he can get, and it’s not his fault ownership shoveled $48.5 million into his lap over the next two years. But we’ve seen plenty of other stars take less. And if we’re trying to logically determine whether the Lakers would be better off without Kobe, the cash he’s collecting is absolutely a factor.

Maybe the Lakers would have signed players of consequence this past offseason if Bryant’s contract had been smaller. After all, at least one big name still thinks Kobe is an attractive teammate.

Kevin Durant, the prize free agent of the 2016 class, disputed the notion that stars don’t want to play with Bryant, per Sam Amick of USA Today

Excuse my language, but that’s (expletive). I want to play with a winner every single night, especially somebody who wants to win that bad, who works that hard, who demands a lot, who raises up your level. I’d want to play with a guy like that every day. … (His style) may make people uncomfortable, how he acts and just how he approaches the game, but I love that type of stuff. I think (the accusation) is BS.

Whether it was Bryant’s contract size or personality that prevented the Lakers from bolstering the roster, the fact remains: One way or another, his presence made it harder to add talent. It’s no great leap to say the Lakers would be better off with more talent.

 

Bryant’s Immeasurable Value?

It’s possible that Bryant is still actually good for the Lakers in some ways.

Without him, the thinking goes, there’d be no reason to watch. No reason to care. No reason to buy tickets. No reason for massive cable outlets to pay top dollar to broadcast games. Perhaps, most critically, no reason for future free agents to trust in the loyalty of the Lakers.

We have to factor those things in when discussing Bryant and his worth because that’s exactly what the Lakers did, as Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News wrote when Kobe signed his massive deal in 2013:

The Lakers also wanted Bryant to know they equated 17 years of built equity in enhancing the Lakers brand, ranging from five NBA championships, ticket sales, jersey sales and the organization’s deal with Time Warner Cable SportsNet and weren’t solely fixated on how he’d play following his Achilles injury.

The Lakers might have been just as profitable, just as attractive to those future free agents and just as relevant to fans if they’d never extended Kobe’s contract. For one thing, we know attendance figures have barely changed from last year, when Bryant played just six games, per ESPN.com.

That’s a small piece of evidence suggesting the “no Kobe” financial picture might not have been all that bad.

Here’s another: A portion of the Lakers’ annual income hinges on local television ratings, according to Henry Abbott of ESPN, and that was a key reason behind Kobe’s contract. However, Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Lakers’ television ratings are actually down from where they were this time last year.

The Lakers averaged a 2.25 rating for [the first 20 games] on Time Warner Cable SportsNet, down 28% from the 3.14 at the start of last season. …

The Lakers’ ratings are near the historic low of 2.11 they averaged all of last season, the worst on record for local Lakers telecasts and a 54% drop from the 2012-13 season, when they averaged a 4.63.

Bryant’s absence might not have sunk the Lakers financially, and the numbers indicate viewers like winning more than they like Kobe. But it seems the front office wasn’t comfortable taking that risk.

Like so many fans, those running the Lakers opted for a few more years of life as they knew it—life with Bryant—instead of moving into the hazy future. Probable losing and certain relevance, they decided, were better than the alternative.

Lakers president Jeanie Buss told ESPN The Magazine‘s Ramona Shelburne: “So while I get attached, I know what the realities are in this business. It’s never going to change what we’ve accomplished together. But I don’t look forward to the day that Kobe Bryant’s not in purple and gold.”

The Lakers are a business, and Bryant is generally assumed to be good for business—despite what some of the facts suggest.

 

For A Limited Time Only

After L.A.’s two-year limbo period with Bryant ends in 2016, the Lakers will have no choice but to move forward. Even if Bryant wants to keep playing beyond his current contract, Lakers brass won’t pay him big bucks to stick around. They’ve satisfied their loyalty obligations, and it’s hard to imagine fanseven Bryant’s staunchest onesaccepting more of the same.

The future is coming, and it will not include Kobe.

As polarizing as he is, even the most ardent Bryant detractors must find that a little sad. Despite the fact that the Lakers are probably better off without him, it’s hard to fault the team or its fans for wanting to hold on to Kobe a little longer.

 

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Should Lakers let Bryant take game-winning shots?

The case against letting Kobe take the final shot.

      
 

 

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Will LeBron and KD Both Pass Kobe Bryant on the All-Time Scoring List?

This season, Kobe Bryant passed Michael Jordan on the NBA‘s all-time scoring list. While both Kevin Durant and LeBron James still have their youth, if they stay healthy, the milestone to pass Bryant would be within reach. 

With James the youngest to reach 20,000 points and Durant the second youngest to reach 15,000 points, both of these elite superstars have the time and the skill to one day, eventually be able to surpass Bryant on the all-time scoring list.

Will James and Durant pass Bryant? Who will score more all time: KD or ‘Bron?

Check it out as Howard Beck and Ric Bucher decide if Durant or James can catch Bryant on the all-time scoring list in the video above.

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Kevin Durant on notion no one wants to play with Kobe Bryant: ‘That’s (expletive)’

As the 2014-15 NBA season was just getting underway in October, a story written by Henry Abbott for ESPN The Magazine made the startling assertion that according to his anonymous sources inside the league, most players would prefer to not have Kobe Bryant as a teammate and that he ultimately is responsible for the downfall…Read More
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Reggie Miller: Michael Jordan 10 times better than Kobe Bryant

Retired NBA guard Reggie Miller played against both Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant during the course of his 18-year career with the Indiana Pacers.
With Bryant recently passing Jordan on the NBA all-time scoring list, Miller weighed in on which player was the better of the two during his weekly appearance on the Dan Patrick Show.
“Michael Jordan on his worst day is 10 …

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To Slither or to Swoosh…. Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant

With number 24(formally number 8) of the Los Angeles Lakers recently passing number 23(no reference needed) there are some people out there saying that Kobe Bryant might actually be the better basketball player. Alright, get near your closest water cooler or glass filled with water….or step up on that soap box or any box that will elevate you slightly so that your opinion is viewed as better and more superior. It’s time for a good old fashioned lesson. The lesson is needed because there are actually human beings walking around on this planet that believe that the Mamba bests the swoosh as a baller because of the passing on the all time scoring list. A tremendous accomplishment and much respect to Bryant but….He is the better player? Silly. He is the second best shooting guard of all time. SECOND. But there are people out there(mostly the kids who didn’t see MJ play and die hard Laker fans) who really believe he is simply the best. Really? Alright kids, get on the bus…time to go to s…

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Lakers throw a party for Kobe Bryant on team plane

On Sunday, Kobe Bryant achieved a huge career milestone when he passed Michael Jordan on the NBAs all-time scoring list. Unfortunately, the Lakers could only offer him a rather sad plane party afterwards. Yes, the Lakers celebrated Kobe’s latest achievement by hanging some cheap decorations around his space on the team’s plane. It might as
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Kobe Bryant Talks Michael Jordan Inspiration in ‘The Players’ Tribune’ Exclusive

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant surpassed Michael Jordan on the NBA scoring list against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday night, topping MJ’s total of 32,292 points. Following that historic accomplishment, Bryant wrote about how Jordan inspired him to continue playing basketball.   

In an exclusive for The Players’ Tribune, the 16-time All-Star noted that he almost gave up on the sport before hearing about Jordan struggling early in high school:

Here’s where my respect and admiration for MJ was forged. I learned that he had been cut from his high school team as a freshman; I learned he knew what it felt like to be embarrassed, to feel like a failure. But he used those emotions to fuel him, make him stronger, he didn’t quit. So I decided to take on my challenge the same way he did. I would channel my failure as fuel to keep my competitive fire burning. I became obsessed with proving to my family — and more importantly to myself — that I CAN DO THIS.

Prior to that, Bryant noted that he felt he “put my family to shame” by not scoring in Philadelphia’s Sonny Hill Future League. At that point, he was only 12 years old and contemplated focusing on soccer.

Now, Bryant stands alone at third on the NBA scoring list for his career. The Lakers’ official Twitter account passed along a note after he finally eclipsed Jordan:

This serves as yet another great example of how current and former stars can affect future standouts. Bryant and Jordan’s careers barely overlapped, but the torch was passed at a young age when an NBA career was an afterthought for Bryant.    

At 36 years old, Bryant is enjoying another great season after returning from injury last year. Averaging 25.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.9 assists, he is still on par with his career averages of 25.5, 5.3 and 4.8, respectively.

Los Angeles may not be competitive in the Western Conference this season, but Bryant has still won five NBA championships with the team. His legacy is already set, much like Jordan’s was late in his career.

Maybe one day another young player will note how important current stars like Bryant, LeBron James or Kevin Durant are for their own future. For now, Bryant has Jordan to thank for the inspiration he provided him throughout his journey to this spot in the record books.

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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Skip Bayless Says ” Kobe Bryant Aint Jordan” On ESPN First Take (Video)

 

Hours after Kobe Bryant passing Michael Jordan on All-Time Scorers List, ESPN First Take Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless debates the incredible milestone. Bayless goes on record to state “Kobe aint Jordan, why are we stopping and applauding”.
Sounds like the usual behavior of Mr. Bayless undermining greatness. Stephen A. debates MJ will always and forever be the all-time great, but lest witness the great career of Kobe.
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