Wednesday , May , 30 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

What would the Lakers be without Kobe?

(Sports Network) – If it’s really true, and superstar Kobe Bryant is sincere
about saying that he would like to be traded, wow, what a mess the Los Angeles
Lakers would be.

First of all, trading Bryant and his hefty contract would be a very difficult
task with the strict salary cap rules in the NBA. Secondly, what the Lakers
would probably want in return would be costly for any franchise willing to
venture into talks with LA.

The Lakers are a team that is built around Bryant and his unbelievable
talents. Since trading All-Star center Shaquille O’Neal on July 14, 2004 to
the Miami Heat, the Lakers have compiled a 121-125 regular-season record,
qualified for the playoffs in two of the three seasons, been eliminated twice
in the opening round and are 4-8 in the postseason.

Los Angeles fell in five games to the Pacific Division champion Phoenix Suns
in round one of this year’s playoffs. In 2006, the Lakers blew a 3-1 lead in
the first round against Phoenix. They fell in seven contests and were
eliminated in the quarterfinals for the first time since 1996.

Not too much to brag about.

A nine-time All-Star, Bryant finished his 11th season in the league. He has
seen that he is not going to win with the current situation in Los Angeles.
When he won three championships with the Lakers (2000, 2001, 2002), there was
always Shaq, who won a title with the Heat in 2006, by his side. Without the
big man, Bryant has not been able to get his squad past the first round.

Forward Lamar Odom, who was acquired from Miami in the Shaq deal, Kwame Brown,
Smush Parker, Luke Walton and Andrew Bynum are nice players. But the fact
remains, none of them seem to have what it takes to help Kobe take the Lakers
to the next level in a very tough Western Conference.

The seven-foot Bynum is just 19-years-old and has shown that he should
eventually develop into a productive NBA center. Odom is a proven commodity
and does put up solid numbers, while Walton had his best season in 2006-07 and
Brown and Parker do have their moments.

Bryant, who averaged an NBA-best 31.6 points per game in 77 contests this past
season, has had enough and is convinced that he won’t be able to get it done
by himself with the Lakers.

Will the Lakers be awful without Bryant? Yes, unless they are able to finagle
a deal that would net them impact players and multiple draft picks. But that
is not going to happen.

Trading Bryant in order to start over would probably be the avenue the Lakers
would most likely go. That would mean veterans with expiring contracts and
first-round draft picks would be very appealing in any kind of deal for Kobe.

The Lakers are a proud franchise, but the time has come to form a new
identity. They have missed the playoffs just twice in the last 31 years. The
franchise has appeared 28 times in the NBA Finals and has won a total of 14
championships. They also won the title five times in Minneapolis (1949,
1950, 1952, 1953, 1954).

Teams will pick up the phone and see what it would take to land the multi-
talented guard. The 28-year-old Bryant, who has spent his entire career with
the Lakers, has career-averages of 24.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists
in 784 regular-season contests. He has participated in 131 playoff games and
has posted 23.3 points per contest.

It took three years, but Kobe seems to have come to the conclusion that he
needs a better supporting cast if he is going to be on a contender once again.

Maybe this is what the Lakers wanted to hear. They aren’t winning with him, so
maybe the timing is right. Bryant is still one of the top players in the game
and doesn’t seem to have lost a step. But one thing is for sure, he cannot win
by himself.

The Lakers would be one of the bottom teams in the league without their
superstar, but they would be starting to build for a brighter future. Even
with Bryant, they are just another team on the NBA map.

The time has come for the Lakers and Kobe to say goodbye to each other.