Magic Johnson is right to urge Kobe Bryant to quit on Lakers

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Kobe Bryant is 36-years-old, faces another lost season through injury and is on a historically bad LA Lakers roster. This is not how Bryant was supposed to see out his career.

For one, former LA Lakers point guard Magic Johnson doesn't think it's right. And he's got a point.

Johnson said on ESPN that Bryant should get aggressive and force Jim Buss into action. The under-fire vice president of basketball operations has overseen the decline of a storied franchise, any other vice president would risk impeachment for such ineptitude.

For Bryant, gamely chucking up shots while Swaggy P and his cohorts turn the Lakers into a laughing stock, it's a serious matter.

Another injury, this time surgery on a torn rotator cuff, puts the shooting guard on a nine-month recovery timeline. After last season's torn achilles, his injury history is becoming critical.

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Bryant's time is running out, and he risks ending his career on a roster that might actually be worse than the Sixers. 

So how do the Lakers fix it? Well, according to Magic, Bryant's got to go all in this summer.

"If he [Jim Buss] doesn't have a big summer with a free agent, it looks like they'll have a good draft pick," Johnson told ESPN.

"Put that together with a good free agent, you can be right back into the mix. If this summer, that doesn't happen where they can sign a great player, it's over for us."

Speaking to Stephan A. Smith on his radio show shortly after, Johnson elaborated: "And I really believe this, [Kobe] should ... say to Jim and them, 'Look, if you don't sign one of these free agents [this offseason], man, I'm just not going to play next year."

The nuclear option.

Bryant bailing on the Lakers for a year is not going to happen. Kobe doesn't have too many years left, if he's not playing for the Lakers next season he needs to find someway to exit his ridiculous two-year, $48m contract. It currently expires after the 2015-16 season and he's owed $25m next year.

No other team is picking up that tab.

He can't afford to wait the season out, not at 36 and with so many surgeries on his health insurance plan.

Every year passed is another missed opportunity at that sixth NBA Championship.

Retirement is the only option, and at least one LA-based reporter thinks Kobe should call it a day. But Kobe is Kobe.

If he wanted to retire, he would have done after he tore his achilles, one of the most difficult injuries to rehab from for an ageing basketball player.

He clearly thinks he's still got something to give, and he's right. He was averaging 22.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.3 steals per game before the injury.

His shot selection was awful, but that was basically the roster's fault. With no legitimate secondary scoring option, a 36-year-old Kobe was the entire Lakers set.

He has every reason to think with a bona-fide superstar in Los Angeles and a few other pieces, he could be part of one more playoff contender.

So, the options available.

Free agency

The Lakers are seriously bad. Like, who the hell are these players bad.

Injuries, front office mismanagement and poor coaching has created a monster currently at 13-40 for the season. That franchise record of 55 losses is well within reach.

But Kobe shouldn't retire because the Lakers have options, and can get good quick.

The only players on the books past 2015-16 are Nick Young, Julius Randle and that's it.

Steve Nash, Carlos Boozer and Jeremy Lin are all free agents this summer and the Lakers have a team option on Jordan Hill, so they can open up huge cap space immediately.

From 2016 the salary cap will explode, but the Lakers can put the pieces in place this summer to build a contender in rapid time. Do this now, and who's to say a certain Kevin Durant wouldn't be interested in 2016 and all of a sudden we've got Kobe at 38 with KD.

Who's available this year?

Candidates for the max at the end of this season include LaMarcus Aldrige, Goran Dragic, Rajon Rondo and Marc Gasol. 

There's also Kevin Love, who was courted by the Lakers before he joined Cleveland. He's got an opt-out, and it's been a bumpy ride in Ohio for the former-UCLA standout so far.

Bring in a top level free agent like Aldridge or Love and you're getting somewhere. And then the draft.

Last year's pick Randle will be recovered from a nasty broken leg by the time October rolls around. He barely got on the court this season so will effectively be a rookie.

The Lakers owe the Suns their first round selection from the Steve Nash deal, but because the Lakers are so bad and the pick is top five protected, they're keeping it as it stands.

And they also get the Rockets first rounder from the Jeremy Lin trade as long as it falls outside the top 14 (it will) so that's two first round picks. They've also got their first rounders in 2016, 2018 and 2019 so they have plenty of capital to work some trades.

Depending on just how bad the Lakers get between now and the end of the season, Duke center Jahlil Okafor could be in play. If not, you're looking at Kentucky freshman Karl-Anthony Towns or, if the Lakers want to plan post-Kobe, then Emmanuel Mudiay, currently playing in China, is the wildcard.

Apart from Okafor, and the Lakers need to get lucky in the lottery for that to happen, all other picks help the team in the future. That's not within Kobe's window.

He needs to win now (well, next season) so free agency and trades will be the way to go. That falls on Jim Buss.

So Magic is right, this is the team's biggest summer for a long time. The Lakers are wasting Kobe's final years horribly. His recent injury problems have not been helped by playing an insane amount of minutes - he was averaging 34.5 minutes a night pre-injury.

Bring in help, and he can take more rests. That results in fewer situations that risk damaging injuries.

He can still be a valuable contributor, but he needs the Lakers to not just feel his urgency, but to act on it.

On just about any other team with a comparable record, Kobe's best option would be retirement. But on the Lakers, anything can happen, for better or worse.

For that reason alone, expect to see Kobe back next season.

Should Kobe return next season or should he retire? 

Have your say below...

LA Lakers
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