One widespread assumption is that the Lakers will have to move
The Lakers are a huge revenue producer with a league-leading profit margin in the $40 million range, according to a league insider. They've built their business on star power. Since moving to Los Angeles in 1960, the Lakers have had a future Hall of Famer in their rotation for a full season all but two years (1994-96).
Their only fallow period was 1991-96, when they went five seasons without an All-NBA player. It took an extraordinary summer by
I'm sure owner
I'm not saying that Bryant won't be traded. But I maintain, despite the current acrimony, that it will be easier for the Lakers to build a contender around Kobe than it would be to find his replacement. Nothing less than an elite player will do for L.A. As good as
The Lakers' mystique is based on having a star like Kobe to drive up revenues. If Bryant leverages a trade, the obvious response for the Lakers would be a three-year plan to build up high draft picks and cap space in hopes of making a free-agent run at
Any elite player would be frustrated to play in Bryant's shoes right now, watching his prime years pass by without a chance at contention. That's why I insist this is not so much about Kobe as it is about the Lakers. Buss needs to reclaim leadership of his dysfunctional franchise. If that means luring back
As Johnson pointed out last week, there are too many voices claiming to speak for the Lakers' front office between GM
Jerry Buss has more to lose than anybody. Among most of his fellow owners, Buss is the true champion of the league because he banks that $40 million annually. But they won't look up to him much longer if he squanders his big money-maker by dumping Kobe.
I'm telling you, they can't afford to trade him. As hard as it may be to keep Bryant, it's going to be much harder to replace him.
It isn't too late to keep the adulation and money coming in. Buss needs to bring order to his front office and keep his star player happy by winning, which is the same formula Buss followed when he was the winningest owner in the NBA not so long ago. In this case, the employee is waiting for leadership from his owner. If Buss has lost his instinct for success, then how can he shift the blame onto Bryant for wanting to leave? Who would want to work for a boss who has forgotten how to act in his own best interests?