Lakers Advance to NBA Finals, But Will They Advance With Kobe Into the Future?
I know you all have a lot to think about, and that the upcoming off-season is the furthest thing from your minds. However, there is one issue you might want to start thinking about now, and what happens in the NBA Finals could have a big impact on that issue. And I’m not talking about the 2009 NBA Draft.
So no, I don’t think the Los Angeles Lakers will make a play for Blake Griffin this year, although that probably would make a difference with your team’s most pressing issue: Will Kobe Bryant decide to opt out of his contract at the end of the NBA Finals?
Yes, that’s right. Kobe Bryant has the ability to opt out of his contract at season’s end. Of course, you all knew that, as Kobe’s possible free agency was what prompted the trade for Pau Gasol and the Lakers most recent stretch of NBA Playoff success. However, despite the Lakers bringing Kobe’s wishes to fruition, he still has an opt-out clause in his contract, and he could very well be on his way to free agency this summer.
Of course, Kobe isn’t going anywhere if he wins a title in Los Angeles this year. First, it would be unfathomable for someone to spend his entire decade-plus career in one town, finally get a championship to call his own, and then take off for another city. Secondly, we all know Kobe wants to win as many championships as he can in order to surpass a certain all-time great who wore the number-23, and to stay ahead of a future Hall of Famer who currently dawns the number-23 jersey as well.
However, what if the Lakers don’t win the NBA Championship this year? What if the Orlando Magic or the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Lakers, and for the second time around, this current cast of Lakers does not win in the NBA Finals. I believe Charles Barkley put it best when he said that if the Lakers win this year, they could go on to win multiple championships, but if they don’t win it this season, then it’s time to break up the party.
Perhaps breaking up said party would involve a Kobe Bryant departure and a new home for the Black Mamba. Maybe Kobe would be forced to come to the realization that Gasol, Bynum and Lamar Odom are just too soft to win an NBA championship. Maybe he would be forced to believe that Phil Jackson just doesn’t care enough to produce another championship. Maybe Kobe would be forced to believe that the Lakers organization just isn’t, nor will ever be, what it once was when Jerry West was running the show. And maybe, just maybe, Kobe Bryant would be forced to go elsewhere.
So Lakers fans. I know that you are already purchasing your tickets for the Finals, and I don’t mean to be a party-pooper, but this is worth considering. And unless you want to sit through what could be a 4, 5, 6 maybe even 10 years of rebuilding basketball, then the Lakers best show up in these NBA Finals. Because even though Kobe’s departure isn’t too likely either way, the only sure-fire way he stays in Los Angeles is if they win the NBA championship this year.