Bryant wants Lakers to stay together
by Sam Amick, USA TODAY Sports
El Segundo, Calif. – When it comes to pro athletes who have serious sway within their respective organization, Kobe Bryant might stand alone.
Yet the Los Angeles Lakers star tested the limits of his influence Tuesday in a postmortem media session, imploring his bosses to do the unthinkable this offseason: keep this underachieving team together despite a price tag that, because of the NBA’s more punitive luxury tax that is about to kick in for the first time, could approach $200 million. Never mind that the 34-year-old Bryant isn’t even sure when he’ll be able to return from the season-ending Achilles tendon tear that took him out of the Lakers’ four-game sweep by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round.
Bryant still sees a starting five that includes himself and a re-signed Dwight Howard with forward Pau Gasol, point guard Steve Nash and small forward Metta World Peace as championship-caliber and worth the incredible cost. It wasn’t a very good band this season, but he wants to keep it together.
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“I would really love to see our guys come back, our core guys come back,” said Bryant, who still hopes to be ready to start next season. “I understand the (salary) cap situation, so that’s always a concern. But all I can do is just voice my opinion.”
Gasol, the 32-year-old who has one season and $19.3 million left on his contract, is atop the list of Lakers players who so many expect to be playing elsewhere next season. Bryant has one season remaining at a league-high $30 million on his deal and has yet to decide if next season will be his last before retirement. It’s only been two months since the passing of longtime Lakers owner Jerry Buss as well, meaning questions abound about whether the team will continue to be run in a similar fashion while being run by his son, Jim, and daughter, Jeanie.
“When I met with (Lakers general manager) Mitch (Kupchak) … I said, ‘I want Pau here,’” Bryant said. “It’s not even a question, not even a discussion. … [For more on Kobe Bryant wants Lakers to stay together, click here.]