The joy and elation that came with seeing Kobe Bryant return to the court in a Lakers uniform was quickly dashed when Bryant crumbled to the floor in Memphis a week ago. The site of Bryant rubbing his knee, much in the same way he rubbed his Achilles months earlier, made every Lakers fan pause and pray for the best.
Bryant staying in the game and hitting a huge three-pointer late in the game calmed the fears of everyone, but unfortunately it will only serve to add to the legend of Kobe Bryant as news would come down that Bryant will miss at least six weeks due to a fractured knee.
Bryant has vowed to do everything possible to return as quickly as possible this season, but is that a good thing? Bryant’s time in the NBA is nearing its end and the Lakers have to start preparing for life without him. And with such a loaded Western Conference, it is unlikely that the Lakers would be able to be much more than a lower seed in the playoffs, even with Bryant playing at a high level.
So with that being said, we asked our experts the question: Would the Lakers be better off in the future if Kobe Bryant sat out the remainder of this season? This is what they had to say:
Ryan Ward (@Lakers_Examiner):
The real question here is if the season is truly lost with or without Kobe Bryant. There’s no question that when playing at high level, Bryant is still among the league’s elite class of players, but it remains uncertain that he’ll be able to reach that level once finally back on the floor in February or March.
Not only is there a lot of uncertainty surrounding Bryant’s return, but the Western Conference is extremely competitive this season with little chance the Lakers will be able to make the playoffs let alone compete for a title.
Personally, depending on Bryant’s actual return date, shutting it down for the season might be the best course of action for the superstar. Nothing can be gained from returning in a lost season. Bryant might jeopardize the short time he’s got left in the NBA by coming back.
Certainly not ideal for a player making the salary he’s making for a franchise that takes a lot of pride in contending for titles on an annual basis.
Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH):
If the question was something having to do with the Lakers being better without Kobe Bryant, the answer would be a resounding no. But in the NBA, you want to either be really good or really bad, and the Lakers are neither. They are stuck in the dreaded ‘No Man’s Land.’
The Lakers are not a championship team even with Kobe Bryant playing at a high level, so what is the point of bringing back Bryant to put more miles on his body, with no chance of a sixth ring at the end of it all.
Bryant says that championships are all that matters to him and if that is the case, it may be better for him to save some miles on body by resting up during a lost year. The Lakers are too proud and classy of a franchise to ever purposely tank a season, and they should not stoop to that level. But in a draft with the number of future stars as this one is projected to have, it would be excellent if the Lakers were able to pick up a young future superstar to help Bryant during his last two years.
These are Bryant’s last years, and both he, and the Lakers, would be better off in the future if Bryant were to rest for the remainder of the season.
Ramneet Singh (@Ramneet24):
It is hard to argue that the Los Angeles Lakers are better off with Kobe Bryant on the sidelines than on the court. Even though Bryant is near the end of his career, his presence in the lineup is enough to make the team better.
Bryant is currently dealing with a knee injury that will keep him out for four-to-six weeks, and there should be no question that he should return this season. Although no one wants him to rush back from rehab, the Lakers need to have Bryant back in uniform.
The Lakers do have a chance to make the post season and they have not been at full strength once this season. Yes, making the lottery would help them with draft position, but tanking is something the Lakers organization has never, and will never resort to. With Bryant on the court, every player will be pushed to give it their all on a nightly basis and do whatever it takes to help the team win.
Not only will Bryant motivate and be a standard bearer for his teammates, but he will help the coaching staff by giving them the ultimate closer in crunch time.
VIDEO: Kobe Bryant Speaks To The Media For The First Time Since His Injury (PT. II)