Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
> If Kobe stays healthy but the Lakers end up as bad as they look now, how will you look back on Kobe in 2014-15?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: So we’re being asked to make a round-trip on the time machine, flashing forward to see what might be in Lakersland and then offering perspective by traveling backward? Uh, if Kobe stays healthy and the Lakers wind up stinking anyway, my hunch is he will have worn out just about everyone by season’s end with vocal discontent – I can’t see this going down easily for him, no matter how many points and personal achievements he snags. The absence of reliable help will be somewhat on management, somewhat on the force of his personality and his game and somewhat on lousy luck and timing. There won’t be any lasting effect on his legacy, though, if that’s what you’re getting at. Heck, Bryant could seek a trade and have it granted, and as soon as he retires, he’ll forever be considered one of the greatest Lakers ever (right behind Magic Johnson, for me).
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Well, let me dig through the attic for my Magic 8 ball. Or at least untangle my mind from trying to look back on the future. Is he close to his career average of 25.5 points a game? Is he shooting above 40 percent? Is he showing up for all the games? I guess I’ll say Kobe was Kobe — driven, single-minded, stubborn, a tireless workaholic who came back from what could have been a career-ending injury and the reason that most of the fans showed up at Staples Center when the Clippers weren’t playing.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Impossible to say now. It’s very possible he will be the one positive storyline — all-timer comes back from bad run of injuries, adds to his own legacy by proving the doubters wrong again (when people should have learned long ago not to doubt him), plays at a high level at an advanced age. That’s obviously if he stays healthy. But what else is going on around him? Was he a leader in difficult time or overtaken by frustration? Was he feeling forced into trying to do everything by himself or did he have some help from Nick Young (eventually), Carlos Boozer, Jordan Hill and others? It will be about the emotions as much as the production, and it will be about the people around him.
Shaun Powell, NBA.com: A healthy Kobe most likely means an All-Star Kobe. Assuming that much, he would regain whatever aura he lost over the last season-and-a-half when injuries and Father Time paid him an unwelcome visit. He’s really the only reason to watch the Lakers and if nothing else, a return to form would be a boost to his already massive ego and could (and should) win him another contract extension, if he wants to play beyond 2015-16.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: As a guy who 1. got paid too much and who 2. shot too much, but who 3. didn’t have much help. No. 2 is, in part, a result of No. 3, which is, in part, a result of No. 1. And that’s on Lakers’ management, even if other star players aren’t crazy about being Bryant’s teammate. They gave him that contract, they empowered his personality, and they’ve yet to transition into a stage where he’s got a smaller role in more of an ensemble cast. The Lakers are going to finish in the bottom three in the Western Conference, but Bryant will pass Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list along the way. So we’ll still be able to celebrate his legacy, even if his team is irrelevant.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: It will be exactly what I expected of Kobe and the Lakers if they continue this trend. I expected him to score like a banshee and play his usual intense style, no matter what his supporting cast does. No offense to Jeremy Lin and Carlos Boozer and others, but these Lakers are a far cry from what Kobe’s been used to for the better part of his tenure as the face and soul of this proud franchise. This isn’t on Kobe, though. This is on the Lakers’ front office. They had their chances to do the right things (Phil Jackson instead of Mike D’Antoni is ground zero for this current mess) and didn’t take care of the business. Kobe and Lakers fans are paying for it now.
Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: He’ll deserve more respect than ever. He has nothing more to prove, and yet he’ll be putting up All-Star numbers for a roster of younger players who can’t keep up with him. I understand the money he’s making, but this will be the story of a guy continuing to do his job and uphold his standards in circumstances that are entirely foreign to him, athletically and competitively.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Valiant? Heroic? Quixotic? The truth is probably somewhere in the middle of all of those. Tuesday night he scored 39 points and took 37 shots and did it because, honestly, who else on that team is going to score 39 points? The Lakers had three other guys in double figures and it still wasn’t enough to beat Phoenix. This is going to be a really long season in Lakerland with or without Kobe, but at least Kobe is out there giving it his best try and making these games somewhat compelling.
For more NBA Debates, go to #AmexNBA