It’s An Uncertain Future For Kobe, Lakers
There are two questions on the minds of local sports fans today.
Each day since Bryant suffered a completely ruptured Achilles tendon against Golden State last Friday there’s been speculation about his future with the team.
Bryant will be paid $30 million next season whether or not he’s able to play but the Lakers could save $80 million if they send him away via the NBA’s amnesty clause.
In that case Bryant would receive his salary but the Lakers wouldn’t be charged with heavy luxury tax fees.
“Amnesty is something we haven’t even discussed,” said General Manager Mitch Kupchak, dismissing media speculation the Lakers might choose that course of action.
The NBA allows teams to amnesty one player under certain conditions.
The Lakers have a dilemma because they don’t know when or more importantly how well Bryant will be able to play next season. And they don’t know if center Dwight Howard will return. As a free agent he could go elsewhere.
So how do they adjust their roster?
Although Bryant has been a fast healer throughout his 17-year Laker career he now has an injury that has a history of greatly affecting or ending athletic careers.
Will Bryant choose to retire? Those who have witnessed his remarkable will to win doubt it.
Will he be as good as new? Perhaps not. In a sport requiring running and jumping he’s vulnerable to tearing the Achilles again.
Lakers trainer Gary Vitti said the media could inspire Bryant to come back the more they write or say he won’t be able to do it. That’s how competitive Bryant is.
The Lakers won their first game without Bryant after Howard spoke to his teammates following a practice last week.
‘We’ve been blessed to play with Kobe but we’ve all done special things in our careers and it’s time to do it again,’ Howard said.
The Lakers then won two more games to earn the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
Laker opponents who would ordinarily enjoy watching the team go through a setback put the sport above any personal negative thoughts.
“Kobe’s injury so late in the season with the playoffs coming up is unbelievable,” said San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich before the Spurs lost to the Lakers last Sunday night.
Miami’s Lebron James expressed his disappointment, as did players from a variety of opponents.
Shaquille O’Neal, who teamed with Bryant on championship Laker teams, said he expects Bryant to return sooner than the six to nine months doctors have estimated.
“Knowing how hard Kobe works I’d say four to six months,” said O’Neal.
As for amnesty, it’s a way for teams to essentially say “we gave this guy a big contract but we’ve changed our minds. He no longer seems that valuable to us.”
Another Laker who could be dismissed through amnesty is forward Metta World Peace. He’s due to make almost $8 million next season, and Earl Clark, a younger guy making less, could take his place in the starting lineup. Don’t forget the Lakers reduced their payroll a few years ago by trading Lamar Odom after he helped the team win two championships.