It’s virtually impossible to imagine Kobe Bryant as anything other than a Laker, but one assistant NBA coach thinks he may join the New York Knicks next year if he’s healthy.
Kobe Bryant has spent more time with one franchise than any other player in NBA history. His 2015-16 campaign will be his 20th with the Los Angeles Lakers, which makes it even more difficult to try and imagine him wearing the jersey of another team. Just seeing Kobe in anything other than purple and gold will look wrong. However, with a $25 million salary for this season, it’s hard to think that the Lakers will genuinely want to re-sign him for 2016-17 on an extortionate one-year contract when they’re trying to rebuild with a young core.
They may feel obliged to after his five championships and the billions of dollars in ticket sales and merchandise, but it’s not the best business decision that the team could make. In fact, picking up Kobe for anywhere near $20 million would be a terrible business decision for any other franchise next summer.
One slight possibility that continues to arise in Kobe free agency talks, though, is the idea of him heading to New York to join Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks.
Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News has reported an interesting comment from an anonymous NBA assistant coach, who believes that Kobe may look to reunite with former teammate Derek Fisher and former head coach Phil Jackson in New York:
"Anonymous NBA assistant coach: “If he gets through the season healthy, it’s not his last year. Kobe will play for one more year. He won’t leave a team just to chase a ring. But I could see him going to New York because of his connections with Carmelo (Anthony), (Derek) Fisher and Phil (Jackson). That would be a fun experience for him and, obviously, New York and Madison Square Garden would go crazy over Kobe being there.”"
As this anonymous assistant suggested, Kobe has stronger ties to the Knicks than any other franchise in the league. He won all his rings with Fisher and Jackson, and that kind of personal and nostalgic connections are the only ones that exist which make any other franchise seem remotely possible besides the Lakers. Furthermore, that slight chance decreases even further — or disappears altogether — if Kobe isn’t healthy this season after the recent Achilles and shoulder issues he’s had.
If he wants to win another championship, it won’t be in Los Angeles. The Lakers have promising young talent with Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell, but they have an awful long way to climb up the Western Conference before they can compete with the top teams. Although, as the assistant coach said, he might not leave the Lakers to chase another ring.
That assessment seems pretty accurate. Kobe won’t just end his Lakers career to adopt a mediocre chance at a championship. Plus, he certainly won’t be the go-to-guy on a contending team. No franchise in that position will take Kobe on to be their number one or two option when they already have someone like Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, James Harden, or any other combination of stars in their prime.
With that in mind, why would Kobe leave the Lakers? To join any kind of noteworthy team he needs to take a huge cut both salary wise and on the court.
Would he really join a team far from contention like the Knicks just to take in another $20 million?
The expected price of more than $20 million to sign Kobe far outweighs the production and efficiency he can deliver on the court. Deep down, he probably knows that himself considering his current state of health and form. That being said, if a team is desperate enough to add a high-volume scorer, the commercial value of Kobe, the killer instinct, and the competitive drive that he has to offer, his price increases.
The only question is whether a team other than the Lakers values Kobe’s gunner style and attitude that highly.
For a team looking for a championship, it’s not remotely worth it. For a team with tons of cap space and nothing to lose, why not? They’ll need a ton of money to even start to tempt Kobe away from Los Angeles.
Kobe Bryant has always been a Laker for life, though, and it’s still incredibly unlikely that will ever change.