Lakers future won't be clear until Kobe Bryant wises up

In many ways, the Lakers have made progress. From hiring Byron Scott to signing Jeremy Lin, the Lakers have not only formed what looks to be a decent roster -- even going under the salary cap for the first time since 1996 -- but they have also revived any hope of making the playoffs.

A shot at the title may not be anymore realistic than it was before, but their chances of removing any association with the term laughing stock have been diminished for the time being.

This season will mark an interesting point in Lakers history. After signing Scott to a four-year deal worth $17 million, the Lakers appear to be more confident in their plan for the coming years as well as their hopes of landing a marquee player next offseason.

The problem is that the front office can't move forward with their plans without Kobe Bryant co-signing off on them. For the Lakers, this has been to their detriment.

Since their championship run back in 2010, the Lakers have been desperately trying to regain their relevance in the league. Aside from their short-lived acquisition of Chris Paul (before former NBA Commissioner David Stern squashed it), the Lakers haven't experienced anything relative to being a contender.

As a storied franchise, this has been unacceptable both in the eyes of the players and front office executives.

The only explanation for what could be the worst four-year stretch in Lakers history unfortunately lies with its superstar. Bryant, who has continually made it apparent that winning now is his only goal, has been his worst enemy in the past few years and it has in turn plagued the Lakers' chances of competing.

It is because of Bryant that the Lakers didn't land a big time name in free agency and it because of Bryant that younger talent hasn't developed. Bryant may be all about winning, but he has lacked and will forever lack in the leading department.

In years past, the Lakers have had the talent to shield Bryant from reality, but that time is no longer.

Having been the center of the Lakers' universe for the better part of his career, it would be hard to blame Bryant for his stubborn attitude towards bettering his teammates as well as bringing in other superstars to play alongside with.

Moving forward in his career, Bryant will soon realize the negativity that has been associated with his ego.

As the Lakers attempt to move along their current upward trajectory, the same obstacle will remain. Bryant, who is signed on for one more year, will assumedly play the majority of the season next year and will be doing all he can to secure a playoff spot in the ultra competitive western conference.

But for as long as he neglects to nurture prospects, the Lakers will be the one's that truly suffer. The summer of 2015 will present intriguing free agents like LaMarcus Aldridge and Paul Millsap, but it won't matter if they don't want to play with Bryant.

At the end of the day, Los Angeles will remain a big and attractive market. Playing with Bryant is on the other hand, unpredictable.

Throughout the course of NBA history, the names that have remained are those that understood the fundamental fact that basketball is a team sport. Take one look at Lebron James and you'll understand.

At this point in his career, Bryant is who he is, but maybe, it's time he takes a page out of Magic Johnson and James' books. Five championships will be engrained alongside Bryant's eventual Hall of Fame plaque, but it will likely be no more.

Heading into his final years, the ball could not be more in Bryant's court.

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