NBA lockout: Should Kobe Bryant play overseas?
He may be part of a barnstorming tour to China, where a collection Rob Pelinka's clients might play exhibition games at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai. On the heels of New Jersey Nets guard Deron Williams agreeing in principle to join the Turkish club Besiktas in a one-year deal, Coach Ergin Ataman indicated he also wants to lure Bryant, who in turn has associates close to him indicating to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski that the Lakers star is open to overseas offers for the duration of the lockout.
But before you book your ticket with Turkish Airlines or get in your Smart Car China, it's necessary to realize that none of these ideas are remotely definitive and that plenty of other possibilities will certainly be floated.
Nonetheless, the situation opens up a philosophical debate on whether Bryant should play overseas during what's probably going to be a prolonged lockout.
Plenty of the finer points regarding the possible teams matter in this debate, such as their ability to afford Bryant, their level of competition and their capability to ensure that Bryant would be protected in case he suffered an injury.
For example, I had argued that the China tour seems to be a good idea because, as competitive as Bryant is, he'd rightfully recognize these would only be exhibition games and serve as nothing more than a avenue to promote his brand in Asia and put some kind of pressure on the NBA to reach a new collective bargaining agreement. An arrangement with Besiktas, which had Allen Iverson playing last year, would be a bit more iffy, even if it could lead to prolonged discussions about Williams seriously considering the Lakers during next year's free agency.
Those wanting Bryant to take it easy this summer are going to be disappointed. Those that love his insatiable competitive drive are going to be excited. He has no plans on shutting down this offseason, saying in his exit interview that he wants to stay active to further strengthen his knee and that he wants to avoid surgery on his right index finger in case the lockout suddenly ends. But there's a difference between offseason regimens and actually competition.
As important as it is for Bryant to remain open to offers, putting pressure on the NBA to reach a deal, there's very little incentive beyond his commercial branding for him to take his talents anywhere unless, of course, the move is nothing but an exhibition showcase, such as the China tour. Bryant already has enough dinged-up parts that he needs ice bags and treatment for nearly every part of his body. Bryant, who will turn 33, already has enough basketball mileage -- an odometer reading that remains high at 40,145 career minutes because he entered the league in 1996 at 17 years old and has appeared in the playoffs in all but one season. And Bryant is surely seasoned enough as a player that playing summer ball wouldn't significantly enhance his skill set.
Part of what makes Bryant so great is his refusal to skip steps and just take things easy. But that's also part of why he needs to exercise extreme caution before considering playing overseas. His contract with the Lakers ends after the 2013-2014 season, and it's conceivable that might be the last one, meaning Bryant has two chances left to acquire another championship.
As bad as it is for the league to have a lockout right now, this is the prime opportunity for Bryant to fully restore his body so he can collect more Larry O'Brien Trophies. There's no use jeopardizing that goal by appearing in a stint overseas, because that's not what will define Bryant's legacy.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Kobe Bryant in action against New Orleans on April 24. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times