Five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant has never been easy to deal with. The face of the Los Angeles Lakers franchise for the last two decades has gotten in some very public feuds with teammates over the years earning him an unfavorable reputation around the league.
Along with bumping heads with fellow superstars like Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard in the past, Bryant also has a reputation within for how he deals with rookies. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak recently talked about how Bryant handles rookies from year to year, via Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News:
“He’s never been great with rookies,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said of Bryant. “Rookies have come to expect Kobe’s glare, Kobe ignoring him in the locker room and saying things.”
Obviously, with a player of Kobe’s caliber and successful track record, the Lakers organization has catered the superstar in terms of making him as comfortable as possible with the right teammates around him. Los Angeles has been his city for almost two decades with the Lakers always making sure players will mesh well with the future Hall of Famer.
Now, with Bryant entering perhaps his last season with the team, the Lakers are taking a different approach in the NBA offseason. It has become clear that the organization is moving on with the expectation of Kobe playing only one more season. Los Angeles will build around the talented young players on the squad like Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and the player the team selects with the second overall pick in the upcoming 2015 NBA Draft.
Unlike in years past, the Lakers won’t be considering whether a player is a good fit alongside Bryant in Los Angeles heading into the upcoming draft and the free agency period that following this summer. Kupchak said the following about the team’s intentions moving forward in terms of the second overall pick they’ll make on June 25, via Medina:
“We’re not going to pick a player because he can play with Kobe, likes Kobe or dislikes Kobe. We’re going to pick the player that can have the longest and best career.”
Currently, Los Angeles owns the second overall pick in the draft and is expected to take either Jahlil Okafor out of Duke or Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns. It will basically come down to the player that doesn’t get taken by the Minnesota Timberwolves for the first pick.
So even though the team isn’t putting stock into whether this potential franchise player is a good fit playing with Bryant, it doesn’t really matter anyway with Los Angeles taking the best player available. There’s been talk of Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell potentially being an option for Los Angeles or maybe even international product Kristaps Porzingis, but in all likelihood it’ll be Okafor or Towns come draft day.