The Los Angeles Lakers are doomed. At least for as long as Kobe Bryant’s on the team.
When the Lakers inked a two-year extension with Bryant this weekend, the Lakers promised themselves another three years without a championship.
For a player that hasn’t played a single possession in his 17th season and won’t be back until later this month, the Black Mamba’s new $48.5 million deal came as a surprise for many. However, many Lakers fans seem to be upbeat about the deal as it could make No. 24 the most tenured player in NBA history. John Stockton currently holds the record with the 19 seasons he spent in Utah playing for the Jazz.
In a decision like this, the Lakers are ultimately presented with two options: one, they can play hardball with Bryant or trade him for picks and young pieces; or two, they can cater to Bryant’s wishes and sign him to a deal that almost promises a sold-out Staples Center upon his return.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, they went with the latter.
Boston was in similar waters after last season, as the contract of longtime Celtic Paul Pierce was running out. General Manager Danny Ainge was forced to make a tough decision.
He could either upset his fan base and trade a player that was with the team since 1998, or he could try to keep Pierce and forgo his attempt to rebuild an aging team.
Ainge ended up making the tough choice for his franchise in July, dealing Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to the Brooklyn Nets for Keith Bogans, Marshon Brooks, Kris Humphries and three draft picks.
While they dealt two future Hall of Famers for a streaky sophomore guard, Kim Kardashian’s ex-husband and a player that has gotten around just as much as Kim K., the Hall of Famers they dealt earned their recognition for what they did, not what they could do.
Boston fans may have hated Ainge for the move all summer and still might, but as the season moves along and the former Celtics see a decline in their numbers, Celtics fans will come around when the success does. The rebuilding process is cut in half, and you aren’t left wondering how you’ll orchestrate a winning team with a large chunk of one player’s salary making up a third of the team’s payroll.
And that’s exactly where the Lakers screwed up.
While Bryant and Pierce are two very different players at different stages in their careers, the type of deal Bryant was given is hardly the one he deserves.
Although $48.5 million may not look like the results of a pay cut, Bryant’s deal involved a pay cut of $6 million over two seasons. That would be enough to allow the Lakers to add another Steve Blake or Wesley Johnson, not the Carmelo Anthony or Kyrie Irving that many Lakers fans had hoped for.
No longer is having one super star among other good players a winning formula. In this era, a team needs at least two or oftentimes three stars to be contenders. See Miami, San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Houston.
The Miami Heat’s big three took a pay cut of almost $10 million a season, giving management the ability to add some depth. Unfortunately for L.A., the same can’t be said in this new deal.
Bryant could have used some help given his aging limbs and declining numbers, but thanks to his new deal, the help he’ll get won’t be the help he’ll need to add ring No. 6 to his collection.