The Los Angeles Lakers are headed toward a crucial off-season that could help determine the team’s future beyond the Kobe Bryant era. The franchise will likely have a high lottery pick and enough cap space to upgrade the roster in free agency.
Even though the Lakers will have enough cap space to land a big-name or two in free agency this summer, many are still skeptical as to whether the team will be able to convince players to come to Los Angeles.
Recently, former Lakers forward and teammate of Kobe’s, Matt Barnes, defended the five-time NBA champion calling him a “scapegoat” for the franchise’s struggles. Barnes claims it isn’t Bryant, but the team’s front office to blame for the recent struggles, via Chris Ballard of Sports Illustrated:
“The reason people don’t want to go to the Lakers is because of management,” Barnes tells SI.com. “Kobe can be the scapegoat all they want but if you play hard, Kobe likes you. And if you bulls— around, he doesn’t. It’s plain and simple. He’s not a vocal leader. He just expects you to play as hard as you can every minute on the court, like he does.”
Before the 2014-15 NBA season got underway, Kobe was heavily criticized for his role in the team’s decline over the years in a controversial article from ESPN’s Henry Abbott. Basically, the article used a few unnamed sources to backup the criticism directed at Bryant for being the reason players didn’t want to sign with the Lakers.
There’s no question that in the past Kobe hasn’t seen eye-to-eye with coaches and teammates. No one will ever forget the famous feud with Shaquille O’Neal and how it potentially ruined a dynasty that could’ve rivaled Magic Johnson’s Showtime Lakers.
As if the feud with Shaq wasn’t enough to make a case against Kobe, the superstar failed to get along with Dwight Howard in his only season in Los Angeles. Dwight was viewed as the future face of the franchise and the player Kobe would hand the torch to down the road, but it simply didn’t work out and now the franchise faces an uncertain future.
Barnes’ comments are interesting considering the current state of the franchise and the extremely important off-season ahead. The Lakers brass have taken their fair share of blows over the course of the last few years, especially executive vice president Jim Buss, and hits will keep coming if the team is unable to right the ship in the coming years.
The Lakers will have as much as four draft picks in the upcoming NBA draft to go along with the cap space to bring in a few talented players in free agency. If the wrong moves are made, and the team continues to be among the worst in the league next season, the criticism will kick into high gear with Buss potentially becoming the scapegoat next summer.
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