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.
Given this news, what direction should the Lakers’ front office think about taking?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Forget the short term. This season is all about plucky overachievement now, not unlike Chicago’s a year ago. Plenty of moral victories, unexpected contributions from unlikely sources and a rare stretch of underdog ball for one of the NBA’s Big Kahuna franchises. Longer term – as in starting next season – the Lakers need to transition to a player who is Bryant’s equal or better and assume that, at most, Kobe will be 1A to whoever makes up that tandem. There’s no belly or time for a methodical rebuilding in L.A. but there doesn’t have to be, given its pull as a free-agent destination. This just has an Oscar Robertson-needing-young-Kareem feel to it for me.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: The short-term plan should just be going back to work, sharing the ball and returning to the scrapping style that had the Lakers with a .500 record at the time of Kobe’s return. It’s all they can do. The long-term plan has to re-visit the decision not to move Pau Gasol before he becomes a free agent. He is the only serious trade chip the Lakers currently have and they need to start thinking ahead to acquire young talent rather than continuing to hitch their prayers onto an old body.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: As for the franchise’s thinking both short-term and long-term, I don’t think it changes anything. Obviously they’ll need a fill-in point guard with Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar all out. Farmar is getting closer, but isn’t ready to play. A D-League guard such as former Suns first-round pick Kendall Marshall could be a short-term fill-in. Otherwise, this is their team, for better or worse, for the short-term. And that’s fine. This was not a title contender with or without Kobe, so let Mike D’Antoni coach these guys up, hope they can scrape their way to another 10-9 record or so without Kobe and see where they are when he’s ready to go. The reality is, and this has nothing to do with tanking, but if ever there was a year to have a season from hell, this is it thanks to the Draft we’ve all obsessed over for months already. The long-term goal was always to pursue free agents this summer and that will remain the plan. With any luck, Kobe is able to get fully healthy, the Lakers add a quality player in the Draft and then acquire more ammunition in July to give Kobe a two-year window to chase a sixth title.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Same as it was thinking before: Get the most out of this team as possible, hope the roster can keep the long-shot playoff hopes alive by staying close to .500 without Bryant just like last time, hope for a second-half push with Kobe back, and then have a championship summer. Consider trades, especially Pau Gasol, but don’t take on bad contracts just to get a deal and don’t cut into the war chest for July. All the things the front office knew before.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Same as they were before Wednesday. This team wasn’t going to be very good whether Kobe was healthy or not. They should certainly be exploring trades, looking to add assets (draft picks and/or young players), though they’re not likely to get much for anyone on that roster.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Kendall Marshall is obviously their short-term solution to a point guard problem Kobe was supposed to solve with his return. You shouldn’t make any long-term decision when you are dealing with any sort of traumatic incident, and make no mistake, after they hit him with that $48 million extension the Lakers are surely feeling a bit emotional about the future. What makes the process tougher is that now they don’t have a healthy Kobe to showcase to free agents they needed to impress in the league up to this summer’s frenzy. Anyone they try to lure to Los Angeles will have to show up and face the prospect of an ailing and fading Kobe as opposed to the league’s most feared performer. Someone send Mitch Kupchak and the Buss family a jumbo supply of Maalox for Christmas, because it’s going to be a rough winter and beyond.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com: That Parker kid at Duke is pretty good! Seriously, there were those heading into the season advocating holding Kobe out as long as possible and, ahem, perhaps focusing more on future draft position and roster flexibility than on trying to be a marginal playoff team in a stacked Western Conference. If anything this latest injury should make that choice much easier.