• Alder Almo

Kobe Preaches Patience in the Wake of Lakers Mess

c/o AP

As LeBron James’ first season with the Los Angeles Lakers heads toward a tragic ending, Kobe Bryant reminded the Los Angeles Lakers fans of an oft-forgotten virtue: patience.

“It is the first year,” Bryant told Juan Jimenez of as.com. Bryant, who was in Shenzhen, China for the FIBA World Cup draw over the weekend as the guest of honor, spoke at some length about the trouble brewing in Hollywood.

“In Los Angeles, it will always be like that because in [LA], people want to win the ring this year, and the next. Now, now, now. But that is not reality. It's okay. Surely the second year will be better and the third, better than the second. Winning is not a matter of 'I get here to win.' It is a process,” the Lakers legend added.

James will be out of the playoffs for the first time since his second season, and by extension will also end his amazing streak of eight straight NBA Finals appearances. He is on the receiving end of the majority of critiques of the failed Lakers’ season -- and rightly so -- as his first season in Purple and Gold has crashed and burned so terribly.

Many die-hard Laker fans think of the two as competitors despite Bryant’s retirement -- that somehow Lebron in LA will lessen Kobe’s legacy -- but Bryant has risen repeatedly to James’ defense. Last December, Bryant boldly predicted that James will bring another championship to the Lakers -- but when? It depended on how well James meshed with the Lakers’ young core.

After a slow start to the season, James and the Lakers started to pick things up in December. They climbed to as high as the fourth spot in the West, giving false hopes to Lakers Nation that their five-year playoff drought could soon come to an end.

Despite the flawed roster assembled by Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka, a healthy Lakers squad had enough talent to play in the postseason, but when James suffered a groin injury, and Lonzo Ball and his ankle followed him to the sidelines, and Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, Rajon Rondo, Javale McGee and several other Lakers spent time in suits instead of jerseys, the flaws became too many.

If there was a final nail in the coffin, it was the ill-fated attempt to trade for New Orleans’ big man Anthony Davis: a move that fractured the Lakers’ organization. If you ask Bryant, though, he’d have explored the opportunity as well if there was a chance to get a generational talent like Davis, even at the expense of the Lakers’ young core.

“(Kyle) Kuzma, Lonzo, Ingram ... Are all three better than Anthony Davis? No, no! Ciao! Bye! Anthony Davis is one of the best players in the world. Not from now, from history. What are we talking about? If you can sign Anthony Davis, you do it. If not, agree. We have three players who are very young and who work hard. They are intelligent and must be developed. But if you can sign Anthony Davis ... yes,” Bryant said.

Johnson will have a chance again this summer to try lure Davis from New Orleans especially with their former GM Dell Demps out of the picture. But with Ingram’s recent injury lessening his trade value and with the rival Boston Celtics armed with assets that may be more attractive, that dream may be out of reach.

The Lakers are at the crossroads. On one side they have James, whose injury this season showed his window to win another title is closing. On the other side they have young talents, who are still starting to figure out things in the NBA, and whose windows may just be coming open for the first time.

Bryant, on SportsCenter earlier this week, said Johnson has his work cut out for him.

“It’s just a matter of being patient. Obviously, you have to make smart decisions. You have opportunities, things, pieces that you can trade, assets that you can sort or you can stay with the young guys who are extremely talented and have great upside and let them develop,” Bryant said.

This will certainly be an active summer for the franchise, with many decisions to be made. And while there are some pessimistic folks in Laker-land these days, Kobe Bryant isn’t one of them.

“You just gotta keep pushing. Seasons like this are what make the championships worth it.”

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