If the NBA has taught us anything this season, it's that the Lakers are terrible. The team is 1-5, and with Steve Nash and Julius Randle out for the season, there's a lot of people expecting Kobe Bryant to start getting very angry in the near future.
Why? Because people still remember 2007, when Kobe Bryant tried to force his way out of Los Angeles before the Lakers managed to acquire Pau Gasol and turn the Lakers into a championship team. Before that trade went down, there were some wild rumors flying around about where Kobe Bryant could end up. One of them featured the Washington Wizards, which we covered all the way back in 2007. It all started when the Chicago Tribune's Sam Smith reported this:
One general manager on the periphery of the Bryant talks says he believes the "dark horse" to make a deal with the Lakers is the Washington Wizards. The consensus is the Wizards have hit a plateau, but have the star power in Gilbert Arenas to make a deal.
Arenas is talking about opting out of his contract after this season. He's from Los Angeles and has become a star, one of the league's highest-scoring players and an engaging personality who would embrace the Hollywood scene. He would meet the Lakers' demands for an All-Star player if they trade Bryant.
"Watch out for them," the general manager said, meaning the Wizards.
But as much as Lakers' fans believe it's about Kobe, Lakers' management would have to jump at a chance for a young star to accelerate their rebuilding. Which is why Kobe to the Wizards may be the one. The Wizards have a young, potential star shooting guard in Bradley Beal. You can build with a player like him. Then you give the Lakers Nene and another player since the Wizards have plenty of guys they're not much using to include in trade. For the Wizards, it's the chance to take a shot, which they really don't have now. With the addition of Paul Pierce, the Wizards are about now. Adding someone like Kobe with Pierce, John Wall and Marcin Gortat gives them a shot at the top of the weak East. And how sweet would it be for Kobe to go where Michael Jordan couldn't win and get somewhere? Kobe's not getting that sixth title. Maybe besting Jordan that way would appeal to him.
Sure, there might be some appeal for Kobe to come to Washington, but the amount the Wizards would have to give up just to match Kobe's salary makes any deal problematic. Here's what happens if you try to deal Kobe for Beal and Nene straight up.
To reach the matching salary threshold, the Wizards would need to include DeJuan Blair, or else the Lakers would need to add more pieces and make the trade even more complicated.
Plus, I can't get with Smith's logic on the Wizards being in win-now mode. Certainly signing veterans like Paul Pierce and Andre Miller have emphasized getting better in the present, but the way the team's salary is shapes indicates the team is still building for the future as well. Their commitment to Pierce and the team's other veterans is relatively minimal compared to the long-term investments they've made in John Wall and will make with Bradley Beal and possibly Otto Porter once they're eligible for their extensions. Also, you may have heard the Wizards are focused on trying to lure a big free agent in 2016. I can't remember his name at the moment, but I'm pretty sure he's well-regarded.
And hey, if the Wizards really wanted to go into win-now mode, nothing would do that more than trading a 21 year old Bradley Beal for a 36 year old Kobe Bryant, who is set to make $25 million next season. Nothing like using the asset you got from possibly the most embarrassing season in Wizards history to acquire the last two seasons of Kobe Bryant's career, something Wizards fans are a little too familiar with from the Jordan years.
Certainly, a trade like the one Smith suggests would put the Wizards in win-now mode. It would also put the Wizards in score-now mode, because they'd be relying on Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce to try and stop the NBA's best wing players, and they wouldn't have Nene behind them to clean up their messes. I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that would put Randy Wittman in SERENITY NOW-mode and put Wizards fans into another cycle of sadness-now mode.