OK, it’s not the end of Kobe’s career. No one with his competitive desire is going to let his career end on an injury. He’ll be back, even if it’s just to finish next season on his feet and call it a career. What it may be is the end of his his Lakers career. Yes, he’s brought the Lakers five championships during his 17 year career, along with untold millions at the box office and in merchandise sales. He has been the one constant through the those 17 years that saw the Lake Show match the five titles that it won during the Showtime Era of the 1980s, and reclaim its place as one the biggest brand names in sports after a half decade of treading water following Magic Johnson’s retirement. But if the Lakers decide to follow the suggestion that has been going around on Twitter over the last 24 hours, and amnesty Kobe, then it will be a wrap. They stand to save as much as $80 million dollars against the luxury tax by using the amnesty clause on Kobe; given that the next few years stand to be more like the post-Magic Era than the post-Kwame Brown era regardless of Kobe’s health and performance saving money might very well be the best move to make.
Dwight Howard is likely gone; for whatever reason he stands to be the first big star to come to L.A. without being hypnotized into staying in town. Word is that he’s still sweet on Brooklyn as a destination, which remains beyond comprehension to me. Assuming that holds up, a sign and trade for Brook Lopez is possible so you’re looking at a possible opening day lineup of Lopez, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace, Steve Nash, and……some guy at two guard. Seeing as how they struggled to stay in the playoff hunt with Kobe, the chances of them doing any better without him are slim. And if Kobe does make it back on schedule you’ll have a 35/36 year old Kobe, coming off Achilles tendon surgery, anchoring the lineup. That’s just not a recipe for long term success. There really is no justification beyond loyalty and sentimentality for keeping Kobe after this season. Yes it will be bad P.R. but if Lebron or some other big star comes in the summer 2014 people will move on. It happens. Laker fans got over Jerry West and Elgin Baylor’s retirements, they got over Magic and Kareem, and they got over Shaq. They will get over Kobe if he goes.
The other guy who should be gone is Mike D’Antoni. His reputation for being no good as a defensive coach remains intact after the Lakers dismal performance at that end this season. And now he’s becoming known as a player killer for having played Kobe over 45 minutes a game this month following his running Amare Stoudemire into the ground in New York. This will be two teams in two years that he’s washed out on; his NBA coaching career looks to be in dire straits for the time being. There are only a few difference making coaches in the league and he clearly is not one of them. Yes, his offense works very well when he has the right personnel like he did those first two years he was in Phoenix. But ever since then he’s been mediocre. He didn’t adjust to having a superstar like Carmelo Anthony in New York and hasn’t done well with a Laker lineup more suited to pounding it inside than running and gunning. Adieu, Mike, and have fun back in Europe.