The Los Angeles Lakers have not had the most impressive offseason in the NBA. After striking out with the summer's big names, general manager Mitch Kupchak settled for deals with players like Houston Rockets castoff Jeremy Lin and 25-year-old journeyman power forward Ed Davis. Meanwhile, the Lakers have brought back incumbents Nick Young and Jordan Hill on what seemed like above-market deals. Even the promising moves, like adding rookie power forward Julius Randle in the draft, seem questionable now that the team has a glut of players at several positions. It's bad enough that Thursday's news that the Lakers had claimed Chicago Bulls amnesty case Carlos Boozer was met largely with laughs and derision.
In short, this squad looks likely to miss out on the postseason even if Kobe Bryant returns in full health, which is iffy in itself. When Kobe signed his massive two-year extension with the Lakers last November, he did so with the expectation that the team would compete in some form. So the franchise icon must be really mad now, right?
Not so much. In an appearance at the Television Critics Association press tour to plug his upcoming Showtime documentary "Kobe Bryant's Muse," the 16-time All-Star said he's in favor of Kupchak's moves. From ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne on Twitter:
Kobe: "I can sit here and tell you with 100 percent honesty that I'm happy with the effort the organization put forward this summer"— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) July 18, 2014
Kobe "I think Mitch has responded quite efficiently (from missing on Melo/Pau) by picking up some of the pieces he has"— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) July 18, 2014
It's easy to make fun of Kobe's comments. For one thing, the phrase "I can sit here and tell you with 100 percent honesty" sounds like cover for an opinion that makes little sense, almost like when someone says "with all due respect" before launching an offensive tirade. It also doesn't help that Kobe uses the word "efficiently" in reference to the acquisitions of high-volume shooters like Boozer and Young. Putting on a happy face doesn't change the Lakers' dim prospects for the 2014-15 season.
Of course, the optimistic route is an easier path than complaining, because Kobe must take some of the blame for the Lakers' inability to convince prized free agents they're an ideal destination. When Kobe signed his new deal, which now takes up roughly 40 percent of next season's salary cap, it became clear that the Lakers would struggle to add enough players to the roster to win titles. Those chances became worse once his injury issues persisted last season, and heading into July's free agency period there was very little evidence that the Lakers were on the brink of serious success. He made contention very difficult for himself and the team when he agreed to that deal. That was his prerogative, and it's hard to argue with making close to $50 million over two years. But that choice did come with some repercussions.
The question is if Kobe's positivity will persist if and when the Lakers season starts to go downhill. Kobe is one of the best players in the history of the sport, but he's never been known for his patience or magnanimity. Imagine a scenario in which Kobe plays well and the Lakers still struggle to win games. Can you see him putting criticism aside at 36 years old with such little time left to add to his legacy?
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