The Lakers insist that Kobe Bryant will not dictate who they hire as their next head coach.
Yet, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak revealed that their next head coach predicates on how they feature Bryant within their offensive system.
“We have to make sure that whoever we hire as a coach gets the most productivity out of him, whether it’s scoring the ball or playmaking or the threat that he may score,” Kupchak said Wednesday in a conference call. “That’s probably our primary importance right now.”
It appears a no-brainer that Bryant remains the Lakers’ focal point after cementing an 18-year career that has spanned five NBA championships and a fourth place standing on the league’s all-time scoring list. But Bryant, who has two years left on his $48.5 million contract, will turn 36 in August and faces plenty of uncertainty surrounding his health. He missed the first 19 games last season while healing his left Achilles tendon. Bryant played in six games before suffering a season-ending left knee fracture.
Bryant scoffed at Mike D’Antoni’s fast-paced system, preferring a more methodical offense that featured him more in the post. Kupchak conceded as much when he analyzed what the best way to use Bryant will entail.
“He’s become most effective where you see a lot of him posting up,” Kupchak said. “I think you will see the ball in his hands making plays. At the end of games, he’s going to have the ball in his hands. He’s going to get a call and he’s going to make free throws. The Kobe today is different than the Kobe 15 years ago. I don’t think that’s a secret. I think Kobe knows where on the court he will be most effective, whether it’s playmaking, being a decoy or scoring the ball. I think we know where those places are.”
Bryant began on-court training on April 21 and has since described his health as “100 percent” on Jimmy Kimmel Live on May 9th.
“We haven’t seen much of him in the last year, but he’s been over here working out and he looks good,” Kupchak said. “Over the years his game has changed from really a game where he is wild and athletic and at times out of his control. This was in the early part of his career. I would say for the last seven or eight years, he has become more deliberate. Of course, he’s gotten a little bit older.”
But as Kupchak made clear, the Lakers are still both building their roster and assembling their coaching staff around Bryant.