When was the last time Kobe Bryant made these kind of public comments?
I think ESPN Los Angeles’ Dave McMenamin is right when he says that this is the most critical Bryant has been of the Lakers’ front office since his 2007 trade request.
On one side, that shows just how great the Lakers have been since then, though it also makes you wonder just how concerned Bryant is about the Lakers’ current set up.
When Bryant was asked whether he thought the Lakers could be a playoff team next year, he made sure to point to the team’s management with his answer.
“I think we have to start at the top in terms of the culture of our team,” Bryant said. “What kind of culture do we want to have? What kind of system do we want to have? How do we want to play? It starts there, and then from there you can start out building your team accordingly.”
As a follow up question, Bryant was asked whether he was satisfied with the current “culture” within the team.
“Nah, man, how can I be satisfied?” Bryant said. “We’re like 100 games under .500. You can’t be satisfied with that at all. That’s not what we stand for, that’s not what we play for. A lot of times it’s hard to understand that message. If you’re not a die hard Laker fan, it’s hard to really understand where we’re coming from [and] what we’re accustomed to which is playing for championships or everything else is a complete failure. That’s just how it is. That’s how it was explained to me by Jerry [West] and all the other great Lakers who have played here and that’s how I just grew up thinking. That’s just how it is.”
So, how do you fix it?
“Well, you’ve gotta start with Jim [Buss],” Bryant said, who will be 36-years-old by the start of next season. “You’ve gotta start with Jim and Jeanie [Buss] and how that relationship plays out. It starts there, and having clear direction and clear authority. Then it goes down to the coaching staff. What’s Mike gonna do? What [do] they want to do with Mike? It’s got to start from the top.”
Shortly after Bryant’s meeting with the media, Sean Deveney from Sporting News reported that the Black Mamba wants a new coach in place next season. If you read between the lines in Bryant’s comments above, you could definitely make the case that Kobe wants D’Antoni gone.
Speaking of people being gone, it appears that Kobe is still a little pissed by the Steve Blake trade.
“I just want to get a phone call when somebody gets traded,” Bryant said.
The five-time NBA champion was then asked whether he had “the patience” to wait until the summer of 2015 to make big changes when players such as Kevin Love and Rajon Rondo could be free agents.
“No. No. No. Nope. Not one lick,” Bryant said. “No. Absolutely not. Absolutely not. It’s my job to go out there on the court and perform. No excuses, right? You gotta get things done. Same thing with the front office. The same expectations they have for me when I perform on the court, the same expectations I have for them up there.”
After last month’s trade deadline, Mitch Kupchak revealed that the Lakers may save the majority of their cap space for the 2015 offseason as opposed to spending all their money this summer.
Obviously, Bryant isn’t on board with such a plan and probably wants the franchise to pursue Carmelo Anthony instead, who will turn 30-years-old at the end of May.
And, of course, the media couldn’t meet with Bryant without mentioning Phil Jackson and his apparent deal with the New York Knicks.
“You know how I feel about Phil. I have so much admiration and respect for him,” Bryant said. “I have a great relationship with him. Personally, it’d be hard for me to understand that happening twice. It’d be tough. I don’t really get it.”
Kobe is obviously referring to the 2012 decision to hire Mike D’Antoni instead of Jackson, and the franchise’s apparent reluctance to try and integrate Phil within the franchise now.
Phil recently confirmed that it was the late Dr. Jerry Buss’ decision to sign D’Antoni instead of Jackson, and it was also Dr. Buss who set up the current Lakers hierarchy to feature his son, Jim, and Mitch Kucphak as the decision makers on the basketball side of things.
That’s why the Lakers had no interest in adding Phil to the team’s front office: They already have their roles established thanks to Dr. Buss, who was renowned for his ability to put the right people in the best places to succeed.
Just like the rest of us, Kobe will need to have faith in the team’s front office over the coming months.
Jim has been the vice president of basketball operations since 2005 and has been working with Kupchak since 1998. This isn’t a partnership that was just thrown together over night.
Patience is the key here: Going into this summer and blowing all of the team’s cap space on players who will keep the Lakers in the “mediocre” category for the next five years or so just won’t get it done.
The Lakers are smart – Bryant even said it himself after signing his two-year contract extension back in November – and they always find a way to make it back to the top.
There’s no reason why this time will be any different.