NBA Rumors Round-Up

NBA Rumors: Lakers Struggling Because of Kobe?

Kobe’s catching the blame for the Lakers’ struggles… Paul George shooting… Chris Bosh admits money was key…

Yannis Koutroupis profile picture
Updated 12 months ago on
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Kobe to blame for Lakers’ downfall?

It would seem that the only connection fans have to the Lakers’ title tradition is Bryant, the man who helped make the franchise one of the most popular brands in sports. Now 36, he’s a lock to have his statue outside Staples Center someday. He’s the reason celebrities line up 10 deep inside. He’s also, say sources both in and around the Lakers’ organization, the primary reason the team has fallen so mightily.

For years the Lakers lived by the Mamba. This is the story of how they’re dying by him.

via Henry Abbott of ESPN

This article, which you have to read in its entirety in order to understand just how much of the Lakers’ struggles are being blamed on Bryant, was a hot topic on Monday, gaining even more traction across the web than when ESPN ranked Bryant 40th last week.

As typical in today’s day and age of anonymous sourcing, while there were multiple sources that Abbott cited to back up his premise that Bryant is as responsible for the Lakers’ downfall as he is their championship runs, there were multiple others willing to say the opposite. Paul George, who Abbott wrote was more inclined to sign an early max extension with the Indiana Pacers because he didn’t want to play with Bryant, came out and publicly denied the claim.

The truth about Bryant probably lies somewhere between Abbott’s article and some of the complete denials coming from Los Angeles. He’s notoriously difficult to play with and quite demanding, but his formula for success cannot be argued with. He’s put together one of the greatest careers in NBA history and even he were truly costing the Lakers here in the latter stages of his career, it’s worth it based off of what he’s done and what he still brings to the table to this day.

What the article specifically ignores is all the things that could have changed the Lakers’ fortunes despite the presence of Bryant. If Chris Paul is a Laker, which he was for a couple of hours before David Stern vetoed the trade, the Lakers are just fine. If the Lakers hire Phil Jackson instead of Mike D’Antoni, Dwight Howard probably never leaves via free agency. If Steve Nash hadn’t been cursed with injuries from the moment he started donning the purple and gold, these last two years probably aren’t anywhere near as bad as they have been. The combination of all those factors, along with Bryant’s alpha-male mentality that rubs some the wrong way, have equally contributed to the Lakers’ demise.

Abbott may be right in saying that the Lakers have come to terms with not contending as long as Bryant is around, but the Collective Bargaining Agreement has a lot to do with that as well. If winning championships is truly out of the question, Bryant does have a chance to change the way he’s remembered as a teammate over the next two years. There’s a lot of attention being paid to the way that he’s working with highly-heralded rookie Julius Randle. Bryant recently said that he would have to be an idiot to [expletive] this opportunity, but Randle has been receptive to his mentorship and appears to be handling the tough love in stride. If he can help groom the next Lakers’ star, it’s going to be hard to look back on Bryant as someone who wasn’t more than worth the trouble he caused.

Paul George progressing

Paul George was seen shooting jumpers with teammates following the Indiana Pacers’ practice on Monday.

via ESPN

This is an encouraging development, given that just a couple months ago George suffered one of the worst leg injuries we’ve ever seen. George has been ruled out for the entire 2014-15 season, but there is some quiet talk that he could be back late in the season, especially if the Indiana Pacers are in the mix to make the playoffs.

However, even with his recovery on track, it’s more likely than not that the Pacers rule on the side of caution with letting him back on the floor. He’s the face of their franchise. He has max money coming his way for the next five years and the Pacers don’t want to risk bringing him back too early just to get their money’s worth in year one. They have plenty of time to reap the benefits of having George on their roster, especially if he eases his way back and comes back as close to his previous form as possible before.

In the meantime, the Pacers are relying on C.J. Miles and Rodney Stuckey in his absence.

Bosh admits money was a factor in re-joining HEAT

Chris Bosh admits that money was a factor in his decision to stay with the Heat.

“It’s always business,” he said. “Nothing is ever personal. I think 100 percent of those dudes would have taken the deal I took.
“It’s not always about money,” Bosh said. “But you do want your full market value. If you work your butt off to get to a certain point, you want to be rewarded for that.”

via Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel

The difference in the offers from the Houston Rockets and the Miami HEAT was roughly about $20 million as the HEAT had his Bird rights and could offer him a fifth, and extremely lucrative, year that the Rockets could not. By joining the Rockets Bosh would have been able to form one of the more promising contenders in the Western Conference, certainly a team with a higher ceiling than this year’s HEAT, but money tends to be the determining factor in these situations – especially for a player in Bosh’s position.

For the past four years Bosh has been the league’s posterboy for sacrificing. He took less money and a smaller role offensively in order to join LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in Miami and compete for championships. He ended up winning two, but during that time lost a lot of the respect he earned during his time as the featured star in Toronto. Bosh went from being overrated to underrated in a very quick span, and this year he’s going to have to opportunity to prove just how good he is. With Houston, it would have been more than the same that he experienced in Miami the past four years, but now he’s going to be the top dog again while making max money. That’s the position most players want to be in. At 30 years old, he’s too talented and accomplished to settle for anything less than the absolute most he can get, which is why he’s still a HEAT.

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Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.

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