HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Kobe Bryant is a Laker for life.
Write it down. Take a picture and whatever else you need.
But don’t think for a second that, the face of the franchise in Los Angeles the better part of the past two decades, has any designs on escaping town during these hard times.
There will be no trade demand from the man Lakers boss Jeanie Buss still calls the “Black Mamba.” She was fearless in her defense of Kobe last week, showing the kind of loyalty you’d expect from someone who has seen the benefits of what he brings during the good times, the championship days.
So Kobe’s reciprocation of that loyalty, as relayed to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports, should not surprise at all:
“I hear the chatter of Kobe should ask out and he should go and play for a contender in this latter stage of his career,” Bryant told Yahoo Sports. “But that’s not what I do. I’m extremely loyal to the Lakers.
“I believe in fighting through the tough times as well as enjoying the good times. It’s my responsibility to get us to be the best that we can be. It’s important that we approach that on a day-to-day basis.”
The Lakers’ 0-4 start is their worst since they also went 0-4 to begin the 1957-58 season, back when the franchise was in Minneapolis. Their upcoming schedule also won’t afford them any easy opportunities with games against the Phoenix Suns, Charlotte Hornets and Memphis Grizzlies.
Lakers guard Steve Nash is ruled out for the season because of a nagging back injury. First-round pick Julius Randle broke his right leg in the opener and is out for the season. The Lakers are also playing without Nick Young and Ryan Kelly, who have injuries.
“We can’t get discouraged by it,” Bryant said. “It’s a very long season. You just have to stay the course. Keep on looking to improve, keep on looking to get better and things will eventually break.
“I’ve enjoyed a great amount of success here. You can’t just enjoy the successful times and then run away from the bad ones. No, I don’t even think about [departing]. I’m a Laker.”
A Laker for life!
And that means the Lakers’ basketball brain trust of Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak have to find a way to fix the problems that currently plague this team or risk Bryant finishing his playing career on Lakers teams that don’t sniff the playoffs.
The idea of Bryant riding off into the sunset on losing teams surely stings for fans who have watched him win five titles and become one of the league’s all-time great players while wearing purple and gold.
But this current crew, which includes the likes of Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer, Ed Davis and Xavier Henry, doesn’t appear to be destined for anything but the lottery. And the Lakers would need to finish with one of the worst records in the league during the regular season to even hold on to their pick, which goes to the Suns as part of the Nash trade.
Kobe’s stance is admirable in an era when players are not shy about chasing titles wherever they have to, particularly in the twilight of their respective careers.
But the reality of his situation is that his loyalty could very well be rewarded with two of the worst seasons of his career from a wins and losses perspective.