Kobe Bryant’s knee injury will keep him out for the rest of the 2013-2014 season. Following his announcement, the future Hall of Famer expressed his displeasure at the way the Los Angeles Lakers have performed without him.
“We're like 100 games under .500," Bryant told reporters. "I can't be satisfied with that at all. This is not what we stand for. This is not what we play for. A lot of times it's hard to understand that message if you're not a diehard Laker fan. It's hard to really understand where we're coming from and what we're accustomed to, which is playing for championships and everything else is a complete failure. That's just how it is.”
With Bryant injured for much of the season, the Lakers are on pace to finish with their worst record, since the franchise was moved to L.A. The team will miss playoffs and likely have a better chance than most to win the draft lottery. Besides Bryant, only three players are signed to play for Los Angeles next season. The veteran wants the organization to use its available salary cap space and form a winning team.
“It's my job to go out there on the court and perform. No excuses for it. Right?” Bryant said. “You got to get things done. It's the same thing with the front office. The same expectations they have of me when I perform on the court is the same expectations I have for them up there. You got to be able to figure out a way to do both."
Bryant specifically mentioned Lakers executive vice president Jim Buss. The shooting guard was not happy with Buss’s decision not to hire Phil Jackson last season, after head coach Mike Brown was fired. Instead of bringing back the man with whom Bryant won five championships, Buss signed Mike D’Antoni to a three-year contract. In a little less than two years with the club, D’Antoni is 12 games under .500.
Before D’Antoni was hired in late 2012, it was rumored that Jackson was returning for a third coaching stint with Los Angeles. Jackson reportedly thought he had the job, but Buss decided to go with D’Antoni instead.
According to the Sporting News, Bryant does not want to play for D’Antoni next season. The Lakers star player signed a two-year contract extension this season, while D’Antoni has one year left on his deal. If D’Antoni gets fired in the offseason, it’s unlikely that Jackson would even be available for L.A. to pursue. The 11-time championship winning head coach appears ready to take over the front office of the New York Knicks.
Bryant isn’t the only one upset with how the Lakers have been run, lately. Magic Johnson took to Twitter on Wednesday, sharing his thoughts on the way Buss has handled the Jackson situation.
“I love Jim & Jeanie Buss, but we need Phil Jackson to be the face of our great organization, the Los Angeles Lakers,” Johnson tweeted. “Kobe Bryant is the face of the Lakers' team. Who is the face of the Lakers' organization?”
While the Buss and the Lakers front office might not be able to satisfy Bryant and Johnson by hiring Jackson, they have a chance to greatly improve the team in the summer. The Lakers have enough money to sign a major free agent, and they will reportedly go after Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony.
Minnesota Timbewolves big man Kevin Love is also a reported target of the Lakers. He won’t become a free agent until 2015, but the Lakers might look to make a trade for the All-Star.