Even after LeBron James signed a four-year, $154 million deal in free agency, the Los Angeles Lakers still have their work cut out for them.
With James showing commitment, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka are on the clock to try and land a second All-Star player to maximize their chances at another championship.
Former executive vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak started the rebuilding process and were able to select players like Brandon Ingram to usher in a new era. While Buss and Kupchak no longer work for Lakers, they were able to help transition the team to where they are today.
“We were lucky to have Kobe for his last two years,” Kupchak said, “because he really was a great distraction considering we were going through a rebuild and losing games. It was kind of like we were rebuilding under cover, but it was a rebuild.”
Bryant, of course, played all 20 seasons in a Lakers uniform and stuck with the team even at their worst point. His presence helped keep Los Angeles relevant and gave fans something to cheer for as they endured several losing seasons.
Bryant’s final season illustrated Kupchak’s point perfectly as most of the media attention revolved around his farewell tour versus the team’s performance. The Lakers ended up in the NBA Draft lottery once again, but all the talk was still about Bryant’s legendary career coming to an end.
However, with Bryant now retired, it will be up to James to lead the Lakers back to the playoffs and turn the storied franchise around. As it stands now, the Lakers are out of the Western Conference playoff picture and will need to make a major push after the All-Star Weekend if they hope to be playing late into April.