Kobe Bryant entered this season with over 54,000 minutes logged on his legs and it showed in their 93-80 loss to the Spurs last Friday.
An under the weather 36-year-old Bryant going 1-for-14 from the field, his worst shooting performance in games where he's attempted at least 10 shots.
Father time has been knocking on Bryant's door for quite some time now, and while he is putting up excellent numbers early on -- boasting 44 points in their recent loss to the Warriors -- it's been for a lost cause.
The Lakers are currently off to a franchise worst 1-9 start and nothing indicates that change is arriving anytime soon.
No light at the end of the tunnel
Finishing last in the western conference already looks like a real possibility for the Lakers and unless Julius Randle comes back stronger next season, Bryant's goal of finishing his career tied with Michael Jordan for titles will be a mere asterisk in what will have been one of the most successful individual careers in NBA history.
There is no doubt that Bryant will go down as one of the most cherished players in Lakers history, so why not call it quits after this season?
Ego and pride are for all that is keeping Bryant's aspirations alive, but they are also diminishing his already established legacy at the same time. If Bryant wants to exit the league with the upmost respect and an everlasting image of a winner, he's going to have to plan his departure soon.
Take a look around Bryant, what are you really playing for?
A mistake from the beginning
When the Lakers signed Bryant to a two-year extension worth $48.5 million, they made a business move, one that wouldn't set them up for long-term success. Jim and Jeanie Buss can come up with all sorts of reasoning for why signing Bryant was the one and only move, but at the end of the day, it's hurt them more than helped.
Being eligible for lottery picks is never ideal, but for now, that looks to be the only hope for the Lakers barring any major free agent signing in the near future.
There are certain procedures that are rarely called upon for teams to do all that they can to help a long-term superstar finish his/her career in the very city they help build -- look at the Broncos recently signing Champ Bailey to a one-day contract -- but the Lakers simply went too far.
While the jersey and ticket sales will have been saved by extending Bryant's contract, the hope and excitement for the season will have conversely been lost.
They will never admit it, but the Lakers know signing Bryant wasn't financially nor logistically justifiable. It was a emotional move, nothing more.
Enjoy it while it lasts
As Bryant trumps along with his discouraged teammates, one question will reside: how long will Bryant stay motivated? His body is already beginning to show signs that it's time to consider retiring or taking on a lesser role -- for good reason -- and it can only go downhill from here.
There is no doubt that Bryant can play at a high level for a few more years, but what does that entail? Surely nothing near contending for a title.
Bryant has given Los Angeles five championships and an entire era of success. Now, it's time he gives himself a break and leave behind a team that will need to start from scratch.
The future is uncertain for the Lakers, but maybe it's time they plan it without Bryant. Every story comes to an end and it just may be the time to turn the page on number 24.
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