Sports Illustrated cover writer Lee Jenkins painted the perfect portrait to why the Los Angeles Lakers passed up on Duke 7 footer Jahil Okafor with the second pick in the 2015 NBA draft, which now left the third choice by the 76ers joining literally the biggest big-three ever in Philadelphia.
In his latest article Jenkins made the case for the Lakers joining the small-ball revolution that Stephen Curry’s Golden State Warriors across California have championship certified, by going with the changing and selecting of a guard instead of their nostalgia of Hollywood Hills tall players.
He says for Lakers. G.M. Mitch Kupchak (a big man himself, and in the 80’s Showtime days one of the best, big-men role players the franchise has ever had) the moment of epiphany came when the General Manager looked at the adorning arena wallpaper that is retired jerseys all the way up there in the Lakers rafters of legacy and championship legacy. All the names and numbers that could reach there. Guys like Mikan. Wilt Chamberlain’s 13. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 33. Shaquille O’Neal’s 34. A long line of legendary big-men that have left their huge sneaker stamp on Lakers and NBA basketball, leading the Lakers to look for the next in line from Pau Gasol to Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard…and this years NBA Draft and upcoming free agency.
Then however, as S.I.’s Jenkins wrote; when Mitch looked to his left, he saw other names. Names like Gail, Jerry and of course Magic. The Lakers has just as good-if not underrated-legacy of legendary guards.
And soon they’ll add the number 24 (or 8) of Kobe Bryant to that list.
That day is soon coming. No matter how much Kobe, the Lakers or the NBA as a whole don’t want it. Like the end of Michael Jordan’s reign or the greatest since him to ever do it in second place. Still, however with the last few years riddled by season ending injuries and critical career calling write offs, Kobe is back and still very much in this game until he say’s so. He’s still the man on this team able to take the them and his town back to glory. But after he does it’ll probably be his time and time to pass the torch, like Magic did to Mike before 23 was followed by 24.
Everyone has their time…and then everybody in turn has their time.
This is when the taste of making it with victory champagne is replace by the finger-crossing of becoming winners in the lottery and now after his draft the Lakers have their ticket to ride into the future. In selecting D’Angelo Russell from Ohio State to shake Adam Silver’s hand, instead of handing the keys to Okafor for a big and tall future, the Lakers now have a big-three for the future with last years rookie surprise Jordan Clarkson and the sophomore status of last years injured rookie and top ten pick Julius Randle…a big-man of the future himself. That is unless the Lakers try and relate across the Californian county to Cousins of Sacramento. Which as star-studded and successful a move right now this potential trade would be, switching up three faces of the future across all the major positions, in a league today built on big-threes for one DeMarcus would be as volatile a move as the man himself. The thinking is with these new young guns, a supporting cast as raw and freshly talented and of course Kobe the Lakers will be able to pursue a more seasoned big-man of legend in the open free-agent market from interested parties like LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love, to former draft pick Marc Gasol…or a combination of sorts. The draft is as smart a move as what’s about to come for a team that has courted interest from the likes of floor wings like Jimmy Butler, but know in turn the contract for his Buckets is restricted by the Bulls. With a lot to consider, after this summer the Los Angeles Lakers may be good enough for this season right now.
Even if this is the case, the point is the Lakers have to cultivate for the future of California once Kobe fades away into the sunset and the ageing Vino has to be a fine-tuned part of that. Just like his season ending injury helped him nurse rookie Julius Randle’s own campaign crucifying one. As bad a break anyone can get, that heartrendingly came for the kid in the confidence crushing first game of last season. Just like Kobe’s courtside collaborative position last year helped him coach Clarkson from the Point Guard position into being the heir Jordan of this squads season to come. The same must happen with D’Angelo. Russell is the athletic young understudy of Bryant and Kobe must become his mentor, because let’s face it soon the kid will be the icons replacement in guard position (forming a brilliant and booming, ballistic backcourt with Clarkson) and star status just like Kobe was to a former purple and gold All-Star swing-man called Eddie Jones.
Kobe knows this and despite what critics think will be perfect in orchestrating this, X and O for dry-erase (just look at his mature handling of other rookie Larry Nance Jr’s now infamous, ill-advised tweet from 2012) in what will one day play as D’Angelo Russell’s team when the former zero becomes hero and like the back of his vest now possesses (Nick Young still holds ‘0’…for now); the number one in Lakerland.