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Kobe.

Life after Kobe Bryant: Where do the Los Angeles Lakers go from here?

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The Kobe Bryant era is almost at its end and the Lakers without Kobe is a scary proposition - no longer having the man who has always bailed them out of trouble or been there to rely on.

However, the Lakers are entering a period of evolution with Bryant's departure. One that has a completely uncertain horizon and two very different ways the Purple and Gold could go. We're going to take a look at them and see what could happen in the Lakers' near future.

As of right now, the Lakers have a core of young players with a lot of potential. Jordan Clarkson and D'Angelo Russell were both selected to the last Rising Stars game while Julius Randle can feel hard done by not to have been playing in the game himself.

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But without the Black Mamba next term, the Lakers are bereft of a leader to guide this prodigious new dawn in the organisation, and that in itself has proven to be a double-edged sword in L.A.

Has Kobe's retirement tour detracted from the young starlets development? One might argue only once Bryant rides off into the sunset will the younger generation of purple and yellow superstars be able to truly exert themselves on the club.

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However, Bryant is a five-time NBA Champion and 18-time All-Star inside 20 seasons. Even if just Bryant's legendary work ethic rubbed off on his teammates in training, he would surely help them progress to no ends.

Either way, that's this season. Next season, there's no Kobe in the equation.

During the All-Star weekend, we asked seven-time NBA Champion and six-year Lakers stalwart Robert Horry - a former teammate of Bryant - what he thinks the Lakers need to survive in a Kobe-less world.

Horry said: "A lot of prayer. It is going to be hard. Every great franchise goes through that moment when they have been on the top echelon for so long, then those guys that were great are now old and now you've got to start over."

Chris Webber(C) of the Sacramento Kings is defende

The Lakers front office already had significant cap space available and with the legendary Bryant departing from his $25 million contract - the most expensive deal in the league - they have the means to chase the best.

Players like Al Horford, Mike Conley, Hassan Whiteside, Joe Johnson and of course, Kevin Durant, are all unrestricted free agents this summer without player options.

DeMar DeRozan is another on the unrestricted list with an early termination clause in his contract, and he can expect to be offered a max-contract somewhere this summer.

The Lakers could go in any number of directions with those free agents on offer and in all probability, afford two star names this offseason to make them playoff contenders overnight on paper.

Horry believes acquiring the right balance of talent is vital to an organisations fortunes.

Horry said: "It is about getting good pieces. San Antonio is the only one who has been fortunate to grab this guy, then this guy and keep them in the system.

"The Lakers are going to have a lot of work ahead of them, so hopefully, they can get a lot of good picks and some good free agents."

Cedars-Sinai Sports Spectacular

However, they have swung and missed in the past few summers when attempting to lure star names to L.A in free agency. Did Bryant's legendary presence put some players off? Who knows. But still, the Lakers might appear a more enticing prospect now a star name has the opportunity to make a huge market like L.A their team, rather than play second fiddle to Kobe.

Byron Scott's men currently sit at the bottom of the Western Conference with a record of 11-47. Should things stay that way till the end of the season, they have a great chance of landing the number one draft pick this summer if the balls drop in their favour.

Although this year's draft class hasn't been celebrated in the media like some of the years prior, the number one pick would potentially mean acquiring Louisiana State's Australian sensation Ben Simmons, who is a forward seemingly destined for super stardom.

LSU v Arkansas

Would adding Simmons alongside Randle in the front court provide a potent enough duo to trouble NBA defences next season? Will Clarkson and Russell develop into a backcourt of the same destructive prowess as Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler? Kyle Lowry and DeRozan? Dare they dream, Klay Thompson and Steph Curry?

The talent is there. Allowing them to grow together and placing the right cogs around them so the league doesn't suffocate their talents before they can establish themselves is a vital task, and one that general manager Mitch Kupchak is tasked with tackling.

There might not ever be another Kobe Bryant - he's a one of a kind talent who's loyalty and competitive edge defined an era. But, there will definitely be life after Kobe, and that's what the Lakers need to embrace to rise from his legendary ashes.

Topics:
Julius Randle
LA Lakers
Pacific Division
Western Conference
NBA
Kobe Bryant
Jordan Clarkson
D'Angelo Russell

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