Immediately after Kobe Bryant signed a contract extension paying him in excess of $48 million over the next two seasons, people began placing much of the Los Angeles Lakers‘ woes on his shoulders. At that point in late November, Bryant was still rehabbing from his previously torn Achilles tendon which sidelined the superstar for nearly eight months. Prior to the injury, Bryant was regarded as the greatest Lakers who ever lived and somebody Lakers fans would defend to the death. However, with their recent struggles the finger is pointed directly at Bryant’s hefty but deserving extension.
Let’s not forget how much Bryant has done for Los Angeles since joining the team in 1996. He has played a vital part in the franchise capturing five NBA Championships, he has been named the league’s MVP and has made the All-Star team fifteen years in a row. Additionally, Bryant has become the Lakers’ all-time leading scorer ahead of Hall of Famers like Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson. So to say he is hurting the Lakers’ rebuilding process is not only ridiculous, but it’s insulting as well. Now this is certainly not directed towards all Lakers fans as there still are millions who will defend the Black Mamba to their grave. For those who do blame Bryant, though, are not worthy of calling themselves Los Angeles Lakers fans for one minute.
Where the blame should really be placed is upon Steve Nash‘s shoulders. Nash will enter the third and thankfully final year of his contract which will pay him $9.7 million over the course of the 2014-15 NBA season. Los Angeles does possess a ton of cap space with Nash on the books, but a near $10 million extra would come in handy this summer especially. Although there are no bona fide superstars in this year’s free agency class, numerous players on the market would be capable of making heavy contributions to the Lakers if signed to a contract. Unfortunately, due to Nash’s selfishness many of the opportunities the Lakers should have had to acquire some quality role players have substantially diminished.
Before I receive tons of negative comments, I personally do not blame Nash for taking the money he is under contract for. The Lakers signed him to the deal and he rightfully deserves to be the recipient of those checks. The real issue I have with Nash is that when given the chance to declare for medical retirement last season, he basically disqualified himself purposely to play a meaningless game late in the season. To be eligible for medical retirement, a player must play in no more than ten games over the course of the regular season. Therefore, when he participated in a tenth game he eliminated himself from what would have been the best-case scenario for Los Angeles.
Additionally, one more reason as to why Nash should have not disqualified himself from medical retirement is that he still would receive all the money owed to him on his current deal without having it count against the Lakers’ salary cap. So not only would Nash get paid, but the Lakers could use the cap space on a rotation player such as Luol Deng or Trevor Ariza in the offseason. Instead, just about all of the team’s cap space will likely go towards re-signing a couple of role players from last season including Nick Young and/or Jordan Hill. It really puts the rebuilding process on hold because acquiring a second star player is flat out impossible at the moment.
For these reasons Nash’s legacy will forever be tarnished. He will still be remembered for his MVP days as a member of the Phoenix Suns, but it will be somewhat overshadowed by his injury-ridden days in Los Angeles. It’s surely a sad thing to see what used to be such a highly regarded player known for his selflessness on the court.