LA Lakers Keeping Pau Gasol Is Key to Extending Kobe Bryant’s Title Window

Kobe Bryant can't do it alone.

The Black Mamba has never won an NBA title without a star big man by his side, and while the debate about whether or not that fact tarnishes his legacy is best left for another day, the point here is that Bryant needs Pau Gasol to remain with the Los Angeles Lakers if he's to ever have a chance at another ring.

The relationship between Bryant and Gasol has always been contentious.

Last season, when head coach Mike D'Antoni was desperate to find a productive lineup, Gasol found himself on the bench down the stretch of a couple of December games. Instead of consoling his long-time teammate, Bryant basically ripped into Gasol for his failure to fight his way out of a tough spot, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

"Put your big-boy pants on. Just adjust. Just adjust. You can't whine about it. You can't complain about it."

And then there was the Lakers' devastating Game 4 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2012 playoffs, a defeat Bryant pinned squarely on Gasol in his postgame comments.

But for all of the occasional sniping (almost all of which has come from Bryant and been directed toward Gasol), the pair have generally gotten along well and enjoyed substantial success. Even after Dwight Howard left the Lakers this past July, Bryant quickly posted an image of himself and Gasol on his Instagram account, as if to say, "looks like it's you and me again, buddy."

In the not-so-distant past, the Bryant-Gasol combo was enough to win a pair of NBA titles. But last year, the duo's on-court numbers weren't especially strong.

Over the course of the 2012-13 season, the Lakers actually posted a higher differential when Bryant and Howard shared the floor than when Bryant and Gasol did (per

But with all of the various system tweaks, lineup changes and injury issues last season, it's difficult to put full trust in some of...

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