Los Angeles Lakers Enter Era of Transition at the Wrong Time

The winds of change are blowing across the Los Angeles Lakers’ landscape at the worst possible time.

Kobe Bryant, the face of the franchise for so many years, is heading into the final two years of his NBA playing career. And instead of going out in a blaze of glory, he’ll simply be a reminder of former greatness, as the Lakers begin a painful rebuild.

Bryant returned from Achilles tendon surgery in December but played just six games before fracturing his knee. It’s looking like his 2013-14 season is over.

A quarter of a century ago, another Laker great went through a farewell tour in grander style. In his final two seasons, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar went to the NBA Finals twice, adding one ring for a total of six over his 20-year career. It was the last vestiges of the Showtime era, and Lakers ownership and management had the good sense to hold it all together, squeezing out the last drops of a dynasty.

Bryant won’t be given the same kind of send-off, it appears. It seems curious in this age of all-access media. The Lakers put together an historic $3.6 billion TV deal with Time Warner Cable last year that seems tailor-made for promoting the superstar’s end game.

Instead, TWC Lakers programming will most likely feature other former Laker greats, shaking their heads ruefully as Bryant competes fiercely with whatever he has left in his tank, surrounded by an unfamiliar and largely subpar roster.

Apart from Bryant, the last holdovers from the Lakers’ most recent championship era are two free agents—Pau Gasol, who will most likely move on at the end of this season, and Jordan Farmar, who might be more amenable to re-signing.

When it comes to players under contract for next season, there aren’t many—just the chronically injured Steve Nash and a few minimum-salary role players.

Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni also ha...

About the Author