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Laker for life! When Kobe Bryant signed that two-year extension prior to last season for a well-deserved $48.5 million, we knew Kobe would retire a Laker.
Even with Kobe returning from career-threatening achilles surgery this season, the ever faithful were expecting the Lakers to at least be competitive and fight for a low playoff seed. But the Mamba was limited to a career-low six games before he succumbed to a devastating knee injury that ruled him out for the remainder of the season.
As the Lakers recently completed one of their worst seasons in memory, with the kind of roster usually reserved for their cross-town foes, their focus now shifts toward next season.
Jim Buss, who is seemingly oblivious to the chatter that he relinquish basketball decision-making to someone else, has transformed the proud franchise into a laughing stock.
And subsequent to Buss's determination to validate himself as the ultimate decision-maker for the Lakers franchise, Kobe finds himself in a quandary with his final years in Buss's hands.
The almost $50 million that Bryant will be paid over the next two seasons is more of a testament to his hall of fame career and five NBA rings with the Lakers, regardless whether he continues to produce on a super star level.
As much as Bryant wants to remain a Laker and end his career in purple and gold, he is more committed to competing for his sixth NBA ring like is idol MJ.
With a coaching staff in flux and a roster that will place them firmly in the draft lottery the next few seasons, it's time for Mr Bryant to look elsewhere.
The one place that has always appealed to Kobe has been Madison Square Garden. He set the scoring record for the Garden back in 2009 and has annually stated that New York was one of his favourite stages to showcase his talent.
With former coach and mentor Phil Jackson installed as President of the Knicks, Manhattan is becoming more attractive than Hollywood.
Even though Phil has repeated that he was not going to coach, the loss of Steve Kerr to the Warriors may have been the precursor to changing his mind. Since the regular season ended, the stars have begun to align for the Mamba to join the Zen Master for their Final Stand!
New York, the grandest stage of them all, could have a few interesting pieces that could facilitate a mutually beneficial trade for both franchises.
Phil Jackson won two Championships with teams starring Bryant and Pao Gasol, whose skill sets were complementary and ideally suited for the Triangle offense.
Gasol, who is a free agent, relishes the opportunity to return to a system that values his arsenal of offensive weapons and to team up with his staunchest supporter in Bryant.
Lamar Odom, whose basketball career nosedived once he was discarded by the Lakers, was signed by Jackson during the last week of the Knicks season and remains one of Phil's favourites.
There has been rumour of Jackson bringing in Derek Fisher as a member of the Knicks coaching staff or front office should he retire this summer. Don't be surprised if Fish finds his way back on the court as a modern-era player-coach if all of the pieces come together.
The biggest two pieces remaining, which would make the Knicks contenders again, is the tandem of Kobe and Melo on the wings, utilising the Triangle for more efficiency and allowing Bryant to mentor Melo toward super-stardom.
To acquire Kobe, Phil would have to persuade his girlfriend, Jeannie Buss, to convince her brother to offload the burdensome salary of Amare Stoudemire ($23 million), who never adjusted well with Carmelo, and allow Kobe ($23 million) to end his hall-of-fame career with a deserving opportunity to compete for a Championship.
Stoudemire may not be compatible with Kobe as a player, but his ill-advised salary this year is. The Knicks will find out tomorrow if they have a Top 3 lottery pick, which would certainly sweeten the pot if it's included in a potential Kobe/Amare trade.
Kobe has gone on record saying that he intends to compete for a ring his last two seasons and will not accept rebuilding, whereas Jim Buss last month asked that the public give him three to four years at the helm to make the Lakers contenders again. Kobe doesn't have that much time.
A blockbuster trade for the Black Mamba and Phil's directorial debut for basketball's version of "Red 3" may be the only chance the Knicks have at resigning Melo, who would now be the featured scorer in the Triangle.
Not only does the reunion help Phil revive the famed Triangle and shorten its learning curve for Carmelo, but also Kobe to the Knicks makes 'cents'!