Trans. Apr 17 5:45 ET (Apr 17 5:45 ET ) Although one of the worst seasons in Los Angeles Lakers history mercifully ended Wednesday night in San Antonio, the drama around the 16-time NBA champions is never finished. Everybody except Kobe Bryant and general manager Mitch Kupchak is facing the possibility of relocation after the Lakers finished 27-55, the most losses in club history and the franchise's worst winning percentage since the Minneapolis Lakers' 72-game season in 1957-58. The changes didn't begin immediately Thursday when the Lakers began packing up their gear for their longest offseason in nine years. Kupchak and owner Jim Buss have plenty of time to decide how to get the Lakers back on the road to title contention, a process likely to take years after this long-successful team finally fell in spectacular fashion.
A look around the league and the web that covers it. It's also important to note that the rotation order and starting nods aren't always listed in order of importance. That's for you, dear reader, to figure out.
C : HoopsAnalyst . Are the 2013-14 Atlanta Hawks the worst eighth playoff seed of the modern era? Somehow, strangely, no. PF : The Detroit News . In contrasting a previous television report, Vincent Goodwill is telling his readers that Grant Hill has no interest taking on a gig as Detroit Pistons general manager. Whatever his interest, anything would be better than Grant Hill slumming on ‘Inside Stuff.’ SF : SB Nation . Holy lord I don’t know where to start just watch this brilliant thing Jon Bois did with Kobe Bryant meeting up with a version of himself from 16 years ago via a video game please watch this. SG : Sports Illustrated . This is Lee Jenkins writing about Joakim Noah, with both of them in their primes. Assuming Lee Jenkins will ever move out of his writing prime. You should probably read this. PG : Minnesota Star-Tribune . As we discussed last week , we’ve probably watched Rick Adelman coach his final NBA game. 6th : SB Nation . Yes, it’s true that Carmelo Anthony is frustrated with the New York Knicks. Anyone should be, after a season like that. This is also a man who would have to turn down a five-year, $129 million contract to play for a storied franchise in a wonderful city under Phil Jackson. It’s April. We’ll come back to Carmelo in July. 7th : New York Post . Full disclosure: Clarence Gaines Jr. is the uncle of one of my best friends, but it’s not bias that is influencing me in telling Knicks fans that he is a scout and executive that can truly help Phil Jackson in so many beneficial ways as he works toward his first offseason as Knicks personnel boss. 8th : Grantland . Zach Lowe represents us silly League Pass folk in breaking down all the wonderful and not-so-passable things about the NBA’s 2013-14 regular season. A lovely read that I’ll be giving another look-over, as you should too. 9th : Hardwood Paroxysm . Jack Winter echoes what the three of us talked about earlier on Thursday: Andrew Bogut will be terribly missed by the Golden State Warriors in this postseason. 10th : Akron Beacon-Journal . Kyrie Irving gives the sort of milquetoast responses you’d respect about his future in Cleveland after yet another frustrating year with the Cavaliers.
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Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops
LeBron James' jersey remains the most popular in the NBA. The league announced Thursday that the Miami Heat star topped the list of jersey sales in the NBA for the sixth time. With teammate Dwyane Wade - whose jersey number hasn't changed in 11 years - at No. 7, the Heat also had the top spot on the team-merchandise sales list. ''Thanks so much to all that 'Strive for Greatness.''' Kevin Durant of Oklahoma City is No. 2 on the list, followed by the Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant, Chicago's Derrick Rose, Golden State's Stephen Curry and New York's Carmelo Anthony.
Kobe Bryant was cleared to begin a six-month training program designed to prepare him for training camp in October. Bryant last played Dec. 17 when he sustained a fractured lateral tibial plateau in his knee during a game against the Memphis Grizzlies. "Kobe will have the entire offseason to heal, rehab and prepare, and we look forward to him being 100 percent for the start of next season," GM Mitch Kupchak said. He said the 2013-14 season was "a frustrating and disappointing season, but I appreciate all the support I've received from the Lakers and the fans, and look forward to being back and ready for the start of training camp."
This Los Angeles Lakers season was always going to be a trying one full of challenges, but the reality has been something akin to a worst-case scenario. L.A.'s most popular squad enters Wednesday night's season finale at the San Antonio Spurs with a 26-55 record, second-worst in the Western Conference and sixth-worst in the entire NBA. The franchise will have to consider many options this summer as they attempt to reload and return to relevance.
The most bizarre aspect of this terrible season, though, has been the relative absence of Lakers icon Kobe Bryant. In his 18th season, Kobe managed to participate in only six games as he struggled to recover from a torn Achilles tendon and subsequent injuries. He has been a presence around the Lakers, but he hasn't been the sort of ever-present force that has made him the NBA's most popular active player around the world.
It now appears that Bryant has ended his 2013-14 responsibilities with the Lakers a little earlier than originally intended. As reported by Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times , Kobe has left the country ahead of both the team's home finale at Staples Center and Wednesday's season finale:
Bryant went to France with family members either Tuesday or Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times has learned. The Lakers conclude their season Wednesday night against the San Antonio Spurs.
A team spokesman said he was unaware of the situation and referred a reporter to Bryant's agent, Rob Pelinka, who did not immediately return a phone call. Bryant has been in a surly mood since the team's fortunes started sagging, muttering under his breath at last month's team photo that he doesn't like associating with a team so many games under .500. [...]
Bryant was supposed to address Lakers fans before the team's home finale Sunday but showed up at Staples Center near halftime because of a migraine headache, a Lakers spokesman said. Instead of Bryant, Nick Young grabbed a microphone before tip-off against Memphis and called Lakers fans "the best in the world."
Shortly after this report surfaced, Bryant tweeted about what he plans on doing to this terrible season:
S*** season. Flush it. Forget it #amnesia Next Season will be epic #blackout #bussfam — Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) April 16, 2014
These sort of actions might be controversial for any other player in the league, but Bryant's position with the Lakers is virtually without comparison. As the team's longtime star, Kobe has taken on near-mythic qualities for Lakers fans. If he chose to leave town a bit early, then it must have been the right call. It's not even as if he's acting out against the team — the tweet's references to the Buss family and improved fortunes next season speaks to his commitment to the Lakers. (Getting paid $48.5 million over the next two seasons probably doesn't hurt either.)
That's not to say that the Lakers figure to be particularly happy about Kobe's actions. Teams expect players to honor their responsibilities, even when injured, and a player heading off to Europe before the season's close isn't a great look. Yet Kobe is not any other player, and the Lakers have often considered the team's needs to be synonymous with his own. That might seem like a misplacement of priorities, but it actually makes some sense. Given Bryant's standing with the franchise, his public image reflects upon that of the team. It behooves them to not make too big a deal out of his trip.
And, really, it's probably in the Lakers' best interest to call as little attention to this season as possible. As Kobe says, it was a season best compared to excrement. Flush it — plunge if necessary — and let 2014-15 serve as the air freshener.
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Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter!
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