Of course it’s an interesting “what if”, but the idea of letting Bryant go would have been an impossible decision to sell to the fan base. Bryant’s loyalty to the organization and incredible accomplishments made the idea of amnesty impossible. He deserves to play his entire career with one franchise, like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.While using the amnesty clause on Bryant was a non-starter, signing him to such a massive deal is a questionable decision. Bryant has made a remarkable amount of money in salary and endorsements over his career. The decision to reward Bryant for his career accomplishments and keep him as the highest player in the league may be out of loyalty, but it’s arguably wasn’t necessary at this point in his career.
You can’t fault Bryant for taking the money, but the example of Duncan’s decision to accept a $10 million deal is interesting. In order to allow the San Antonio Spurs to keep their championship roster in tact Duncan took a pay cut, for the good of the team. If Bryant would have taken a similar deal the Lakers would have had the ability to sign two max free agents to team with Bryant.Heading into next season the Lakers have no idea what Bryant they’ll have back. Since he entered the league at 18 Bryant has a tremendous amount of miles on his legs, not to mention a torn Achilles. If he struggles with injuries like he did last season the Lakers will likely struggle as well. With two years and $48 million on the contract he signed, the Lakers need a healthy Bryant.
Time will tell if the Bryant contract is an albatross. At the very worst it could set the teams re-build back a couple of seasons. If Bryant, who’s known for his incredible work ethic and competitiveness, can return and prove the doubters wrong the contract could turn out to be a positive.
It all depends on what roster the Lakers build around Bryant, starting with a head coach. If Carmelo Anthony decides to jump from New York and join Bryant the massive deal may turn out to be a positive. If not, the Lakers might be in for another tough season.
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