Kobe Bryant injured again — those are four words that Los Angeles Lakers fans never wanted to hear…but that’s the case. As ESPN reported, Bryant has fractured the lateral tibial plateau in his left knee and is expected to miss six weeks. What does this mean for the Lakers? Should they trade Pau Gasol and call it a day?
You can’t help but think about Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls with this one. Rose worked extremely hard to get back, as did Bryant. Then, both of them suffer freak injuries. The big difference is that the Bulls play in the much weaker Eastern Conference and can still find their way into the playoffs. The Lakers don’t have that luxury.
Gasol has already been the subject of numerous trade rumors, but the Lakers didn’t want to unload him if there was any chance to make the Western Conference playoffs. It’s hard to see how the 12-13 Lakers, who are currently 11th in the conference, are going to be able to survive for six weeks then make a big run.
So should they trade Gasol and start working towards the future?
The problem is that they’re still Kobe’s team and they aren’t really going to want to rebuild around him. They can make a play for a big name this offseason but even then — what big name wants to play next to Bryant and play Robin to Kobe’s Batman?
With that said, the only smart and logical play is to trade Gasol. Would there be takers for a 33-year-old center on the decline who is having the worst shooting season he’s had in his career? Gasol is making just 43.9 percent of his field goals and just 44.2 percent of his 2-point attempts.
There’s definitely room for a veteran who’s made four All-Star games and has won two NBA championships. His contract is up after this season and he could absolutely be a rental for a team trying to make a big splash this season. Is it easy to move $19 million in salary? No. Could it happen? Absolutely.
It’s unfortunate that this had to happen at all, but even more so because the Lakers can’t afford to fall back much more. You can be sure Lakers’ brass are working around the clock to find a taker for Gasol or at the very least, to listen to every offer they can get.
Is this the end for Bryant? Probably not. Is it the end of the Lakers as we’ve known them over the past decade? Absolutely. Get well, Kobe. The NBA isn’t the same without you.