Kobe’s Pitch to LaMarcus Aldridge Reveals Why Free Agents Are Rebuffing Lakers

LOS ANGELES — Kobe Bryant could only say what he knew.

He had lost faith in the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant told LaMarcus Aldridge.

Bryant did not believe the franchise could help him win again. Until, much to his awe and delight, Bryant said, the Lakers turned it all around in 2008, getting him Pau Gasol and two more titles.

Bryant didn't stop there: He brought up the blocked Chris Paul trade to Aldridge as even greater proof of Mitch Kupchak's team-building brilliance.

Bryant suggested to Aldridge that attempting to land Paul wasn't just paving the way for even more championships; the Lakers were set to save a ton of money in that deal in an even more extraordinary victory. Although the Paul trade wasn't allowed to go down, Bryant said, it just goes to show that you can count on Kupchak and the Lakers to find a way to get you the help you need.

It was strong, passionate, inspiring stuff. But Bryant's message, and everything else presented to Aldridge in the Lakers' two-hour free-agent meeting with him late Tuesday night, did not hit home. Aldridge gave the Lakers his first audience of free agency, yet he's believed to be leaning toward the San Antonio Spurs or Phoenix Suns, assuming he follows through on leaving the Portland Trail Blazers.

As much as Bryant deflected credit from himself and intended to reassure Aldridge about the Lakers' future, the story he told was still rooted in the past.   

And therein lies the crux of the problem for the Lakers as they try to sell Aldridge, DeAndre Jordan, Greg Monroe and anyone else in free agency.

The future might draw more star free agents. The past was undeniably glorious. But the Lakers have nothing to offer in the present.

They are, by their own admission, distinctly far from championship contention. If you put yourself in Aldridge's shoes—just days from turning 30 and ...

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