Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Say you’re a Lakers fan or a Lakers front-office type … Is there any reason for Kobe to come back this season?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: The No. 1 reason I want Kobe Bryant back this season — whether I’m a Lakers’ employee, an NBA fan or a blog-stained wretch — is I’m sick and tired of the Father Time cliché. To heck with that old bastard’s undefeated record. If anyone is ornery and driven and talented enough to kick his white-bearded butt, it’s the Black Mamba. Bryant has a burning desire to play sooner, not later. He’s got some serious all-time positioning to boost (fourth in points and FGAs, third in FTs, etc.) and, at 35, a finite number of games remaining to do so. Then there’s that ring total, which won’t change for him this spring … but you can be the one to tell him that. Finally, in this revenue-sharing NBA, TV ratings matter, no team’s more so than the Lakers. Kobe’s return and ramp-up to lethalness is a mini-series rave waiting to happen.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: If you’re Kobe, the only reason to come back this season is because you’re Kobe. You’re 35 years old, time is running out quickly on your career and you don’t give up a year. Ever. Maybe you won’t win a championship this season, or even come close, but you can take another step toward reinforcing your reputation and cementing your legacy as the toughest guy in the game today. And you love that.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: It isn’t in Kobe’s DNA, but stay away, take the year off. This has all the makings of San Antonio Spurs circa 1996-97. You remember, The Admiral got hurt, the Spurs tanked and a few months later they drafted Tim Duncan and changed the course of NBA history. Or this could be another in a long line of Lakers maneuverings/good luck to land a franchise-anchoring player like Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and Mamba. Can you imagine Kobe tough-loving rookie Andrew Wiggins? L.A. is so desperate for that next superstar, but it isn’t happening in free agency. The draft, this draft, is the way to go. So Kobe, keep strengthening that Achilles, but no reason to put it into action until training camp 2014 when the Mamba turns Mentor.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Kobe’s answer is the easy one: Yes, absolutely, definitely, for sure. He’s not getting any younger and the chance to play with a lottery team is still the chance to keep playing. The Lakers front office also wants him back this season. They have offseason decisions to make, so it is valuable to see how the many free agents in waiting are able to play with him, worth considering moving forward. Management also has to get a read of where Kobe is physically as they talk about a new contract with him. The fans? Probably. While they see the value in ping-pong balls, there is also something to be said for the answer from Kobe himself. It’s a chance to see one of the greats before he is off the court for good.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com:If he’s healthy, he should play. If he’s not, he shouldn’t. Pretty simple. The Lakers aren’t going to make the playoffs either way, but I don’t think you’re going to keep Kobe off the court if he feels he can play. I’m sure Lakers fans would rather watch him gun for MJ’s spot on the all-time scoring list than go through a full 82 games of Nick Young and Wes Johnson. And since he’s getting paid more than $30 million, it would be nice if he earned some of it.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: This is blasphemy! A question like this could get you punched in the mouth in certain parts of Los Angeles and Southern California. Lakers fans always want as much Kobe as they can get. He’s the heart and soul of the franchise. Of course, you want him to come back, even if the Lakers are completely out of the playoff picture when he does return. He’s the reason Lakers fans pay all of that money to attend games at Staples Center and the same reason fans around the globe identify with the team despite having never set foot in Hollywood. The front office needs to him to come back so they can shop him and the franchise as an ideal future destination for the free-agent class of the 2014. A recovered Kobe is a priceless visual aide. Kobe clad in one of his designed suits all season does nothing for the Lakers’ cause. Do you even want Kobe to come back this year … blasphemy!
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I’ve thought all along that the only reason for Kobe to rush back and attempt to play before he’s one-million percent healthy and confident would be to help the Lakers if they were a playoff team. Sure, we are still way early in the season, but it looks as though the Lakers don’t have the firepower to be a contender, and probably not a playoff team, either. If I’m a Lakers fan I tell Kobe to take a year off and get healthy, try and trade Gasol for a first round pick, and then next season have two blue chippers to learn from the league’s greatest competitor.
Davide Chinellato, NBA.com Italia: What a Lakers fan thinks: I want Kobe to come back as soon as possible. We can still turn this season around and be the usual Lakers. What the Lakers front office thinks: We should figure out a way to convince Kobe to sit out the entire season. The 2014 Draft is so talented, and we have a lot of money to invest in the free agency. We’ll be back as strong as ever next year and our team will have a bright future. What (I think) Kobe Bryant thinks: I’m out to prove everybody I’m the best ever. I’ll play tomorrow.
Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA.com Greece: Kobe is the Lakers. And the Lakers are Kobe. Even if in a mediocre season, the return of the “Black Mamba” could spice things up and give the Lakers’ fans a reason to embrace the team onces again. Also, Kobe is now 35. He will not get any younger. He has some good games left in him. I am pretty sure he can beat the achilles injury, but nobody, N-O-B-O-D-Y, can defeat time.
Philipp Dornhegge, NBA.com Germany: Honestly, I’m not one for the tanking thing. If a player is healthy, he should play. And play to the best of his abilities and to win every game. I’m pretty sure Kobe thinks the same way, and the Lakers management won’t be able to do anything about it. And it’s not all that bad. I’m convinced the Lakers won’t make the Playoffs either way, and despite the fact that they might miss out on Wiggins, Randle and Parker they’ll still get a lottery pick, i.e. a good player. Also: They’re the Lakers, they can always get better through free agency. And for Kobe: He’s only 675 points behind MJ. Catching the GOAT would certainly soften the blow for an otherwise lost season.