By Flint Wheeler
The 2015-16 Kobe Bryant farewell tour is finally winding down. The wins are not coming and the franchise is headed towards yet another top draft pick after landing the No.2 selection last year. With a very young team, the Lakers will be desperate for a few stars to sign on in the offseason which may or may not happen as general manager Mitch Kupchak admits Bryant must retire before the Lakers can improve.
The Lakers are trying to transition as a team with a very young roster and become contenders again, but Bryant is slowing the process down. With the veteran prepared to step up at the end of the season, Kupchak admits he is anxious for the move to begin so everyone can move on and the Lakers can go through a proper rebuilding process.
“We cannot move on as a team until Kobe leaves,” Kupchak said, via Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times. “Part of that to me is painful because I’ve been here 20 years with Kobe. This is a year that’s dedicated to Kobe and his farewell. From my point of view, it gives me complete clarity. … We know what our [salary] cap situation is going to be like…. “We feel in the last two years that we’ve gotten at least five attractive young players,”
Kupchak is referring to the core group of youth involving Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, D’Angelo Russell, Larry Nance Jr and Anthony Brown. However, this rebuilding process has been criticized as hurting the development of the younger players. There is no question the youth is getting plenty of chances to play this year, but they are not catching on like the team had hoped which is causing frustrations to boil over. Already this year Russell has been benched and now Randle is following suit as head coach Byron Scott says the forward has to grow up.
“He’s got to grow up,” Scott said, via ESPN.com. “Simple as that. I think the main thing I don’t like is, when you take him out of a game, how he acts sometimes. But again, I chalk it up to immaturity and just being inexperienced at this level because it’s going to happen again. I’m going to take him out of other games that he’s not going to like.”
The quicker the younger players develop for the Lakers, the quicker they become a desirable destination for free agents. Until then, the Lakers could try and acquire talent via trades. According to the Los Angeles Times, Nick Young leads the list of trade candidates for the Lakers while Lou Williams and Brandon Bass could be made available as well if desirable moves surface in the next two months.
In the meantime – Kobe shows no signs of slowing..err, Let’s be honest, he shows no signs of shooting less. And if indeed that is the going rate, Kobe would have already spent part of his retirement booty from the close-out tour. That has turned out to be a big part of the story.
Here is the gist – with the focus more on entertainment than the basketball outcome, since it does not matter for the Lakers anyway, the run sits at 13-6 to the Over when Bryant has played his last game at a particular road setting, those 19 games exceeding the market expectations by 156 points, or 8.2 per game. Has Kobe tried to put on a show for them? You bet – he has attempted shots at a rate of 28.2 per 48 minutes in those games. How would that stack up if pro-rated for the entire season?
NBA Shots-per-48 Minutes
DeMarcus Cousins 28.5
Stephen Curry 28.3
Bryant “Last Calls” 28.2
DeMarcus is in a position with almost no help offensively for the Kings to be the sole provider in Sacramento. However, it’s still a lot of shots for two teams that won’t sniff the post season (Kings, Lakers). For Kobe, that’s lot of hoisting for one of the worst current offensive players in the sport, Bryant at 35.9 percent from the field, including 28.3 from 3-point range. For him to even be in the same conversation offensively with Curry is a joke this season.
There are four road games left on the tour, though the schedule will show five – I do not count a game against the Clippers as being on the road. The only March games under the pattern have been at Denver and Phoenix, two teams that were more than happy for a little sideshow at home.