Pros and Cons If LA Lakers Actually Let Kobe Bryant Become a Free Agent

The future of Los Angeles Lakers aging star Kobe Bryant has never been more uncertain.

The 35-year-old is still working his way back from the torn Achilles that prematurely ended his 2012-13 campaign. His 2013-14 season, whenever it starts, will be the final contracted year on his current deal with the franchise.

Depending on your source, Bryant's either definitely headed for free agency or he'll never come close to getting there.

T.J. Simers of the Orange County Register reported that Lakers executive vice president Jim Buss plans on allowing Bryant to hit the market. Yet just one day later, ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne reported that she heard the exact opposite from Buss and offered the following quote from the executive himself:

I want to put an end to any speculation that we would allow Kobe to become a free agent. That's not going to happen. Kobe is a top priority for us. He's a Laker legend and always will be. I don't think we're done winning championships with him yet.

Clear as mud, isn't it?

In a season that was already full of so many unknowns for the Lakers, Bryant's expiring contract is the biggest of all.

Would the Lakers actually consider letting the five-time champion wade out into the free-agent waters next summer? With this many leaks springing from the roster, can L.A. afford not to?


Kobe Isn't Leaving

The final chapter of Bryant's basketball story is nothing more than blank pages at this point. The 15-time All-Star told Simers he still doesn't know if he's headed for "a happy ending, or does it end in a tragedy?"

I can't fill in those pages for you (or for him), but I can at least construct the setting for this conclusion. It'll be underneath those same sunny skies he's enjoyed for the last 17 seasons, with the same franchise he's already given 1,239 regular-season games ...

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