By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff…

Yes, you read the title correctly, blame the legend. The Lakers are going into next season with a best case scenario of being the 11th seed in the Western Conference despite having Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, enough cap space for 2 All Stars or 1 max contract and the 7th pick in the draft to start the offseason. To say that free agency went poorly would be an incredible piece of sugar coating, their offseason performance was pathetic. The 2 best players they added in free agency were Jeremy Lin and Carlos Boozer, Lin whose team was desperate to trade and Boozer who was cut by his own team; actually it could be Ed Davis and since some of you have no clue who that is that says a lot. The biggest problem? That would be inept ownership and management. Second? That would be Kobe Bryant and his ridiculous 2 season, 48.5 million dollar contract.

* Note: If you can give me an actual reason why the Lakers can be a better team than the Spurs, Clippers, Thunder, Grizzlies, Trail Blazers, Mavericks, Warriors, Rockets, Suns or Nuggets, you email it to me and if I agree with it, I will publish it.…

During the season, Kobe Bryant was re-signed to a contract that will for the next 2 seasons make him the best paid player in the Association. He is also 35, has 2 big injuries in 2 seasons and will be playing in his 19th season. Basically, by NBA standards, he is in his 40′s. His 23.5 million dollar contract next season will make for about a 3rd of their cap next season. With the Dirk Nowitzki’s and Tim Duncan’s of the NBA taking 5-10 million dollar discounts per season so that their franchises can build a title contender, Kobe Bryant’s selfish contract is denying them the chance to build a contender. Yes they could have signed Carmelo Anthony to a 20+ million dollar per season and contract and they tried, but a Lakers team with a healthy Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony is still no better than a 7th or 8th seed in the West. Yes, I said selfish, because that is exactly what it is. Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan are still valued at 15 million dollars per season yet will make 7.5 and 10 million respectively next season. A healthy Kobe Bryant is at the same amount, yet healthy or no, Kobe will make 23.5 million next season and 25 million in 2 seasons. Kobe Bryant covets a sixth ring, but because of that contract he won’t get it because he valued the golden dollar more than another diamond ring.

If Bryant was signed for even 15 million dollars next season, they could have started the offseason with about 34 million in cap space, enough for 2 near max players to make their own Big 3. Hypothetically they could have Kobe Bryant-Carmelo Anthony-Chris Bosh as their foundation instead of Kobe, Julius Randle and the prospect of a lot of cap space next offseason, enough for 1 star. However like this offseason, is there any elite player that would like to join a Lakers team with Kobe making 23-25 million and little else?

The Lakers if healthy have the potential to be a .500 team next season that’s it, but it will take almost 50 wins to get into the playoffs in the West. The Lakers won’t make the playoffs next season and unless they are able to sign a star next offseason, the same can be said for that next season. Kobe Bryant just had to make 23-25 million per season. He won’t win another ring and that is his fault and yes the geniuses who run the Lakers these days should be blamed too for giving him the contract, but Bryant is the selfish, egotist who took the money rather than the chance to win his 6th ring, which is what I thought mattered most to him; apparently that answer is no.