With Kobe Bryant Era Ending, Steps for Lakers’ Return to Prominence Are Clear

LOS ANGELES — The Laker way, as fully endorsed by Kobe Bryant, has been to swing for the fences.

About the only thing Bryant and the late longtime owner Jerry Buss clashed over was when Bryant thought Buss was breaking their blood-brothers pact to go all-out for championships in the years after Bryant stayed and Shaquille O'Neal went.

Bryant's new shoulder injury is the latest harbinger of his era's finality, and with Buss gone, it's time to stop and figure out how some other people might return the Lakers to grandeur.

Normally, sports franchises hope for quick rebuilds if good fortune strikes but accept that it usually takes years and years of player development and team chemistry. To that end, both Magic Johnson and Bryant did come to Buss as rookies and grow from there into stars and ultimately legends.

But the slow play is not the preferred Laker way—and it especially isn't when Jim Buss has pledged to resign as head of basketball operations if the Lakers aren't in the Western Conference Finals by 2018, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Lakers have understandably sought to maximize first O'Neal and then Bryant as veteran superstars whose championship windows would not last forever, and they all profited from that approach. The best-laid plans, however, to have Chris Paul or Dwight Howard in place as the next veteran superstar to anchor the roster fell through, though, and you see the dark downside of the Laker way today.

Unable to acquire and keep the next star, the Lakers instead had to be OK totally striking out. Bryant had to be OK with Jeremy Lin being the Lakers' big offseason acquisition, and Lin only came because Houston offered a first-round pick for the Lakers to take him and his salary.

Consequently, the Laker way is now a starting lineup of Jordan Clarkson, Wayne Ellington, Ryan Kelly, Jordan Hill and Robert Sacre—because management has ref...

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