Kobe’s Last Ride?
Of course, no Lakers season preview would be complete without mentioning Kobe Bean Bryant. He is on the verge of setting an NBA record for most seasons played with one team, and it has long been assumed that this one will be his last. He has spent the last 20 years mesmerizing Lakers fans, to the point where many fans don’t know a world in which Bryant wasn’t wearing the Golden Armor.
There have been some rumblings that Kobe may not retire after all, including a well-placed (as always) Phil Jackson comment that hinted Bryant may continue playing with a different team. Bryant was quick to shut down that notion, but the feeling that Bryant’s future is far from decided has never been stronger.
Should the Lakers make a splash next summer with the mountain of cap space at their disposal, it’s entirely possible that Bryant will decide to fight Father Time for a bit longer, hoping to be part of one more playoff push.
After sustaining a season-ending injury for the past three years, much of Bryant’s decision will likely come down to how well his body handles the rigors of the NBA schedule. He will have a strict minutes limitation, and will likely sit out games here and there in order to allow more time to recover, but still only so much can be done to preserve a 37 year old with the mileage that Kobe has on his odometer.
The “will he or won’t he?” dynamic promises to be a consistent storyline for the Lakers all season, and no one –not even Bryant — will know just what the final verdict will be.
The Lakers have many goals this season, including improving their record, developing the young players, integrating veterans, and continuing to adapt to the modern NBA. Equally important, though, is making sure that Kobe Bryant is able to suit up and take the floor for the final game of the season, just in case it’s his last.[divide]