Kobe Bryant has long* been an advocate for patiently building basketball teams until they reach their full potential naturally, especially when the Lakers are involved** in the discussion.
And since hanging up his Nikes for good, Bryant has stayed somewhat active in helping the young Lakers get the most out of their games, including working out with Kyle Kuzma.
That’s why it was no surprise when over the summer, Bryant advocated for the Lakers to be patient with their young core, a point he reiterated when talking about them at the team’s recent “All Access” event (via Kyle Goon of the O.C. Register):
“Unbelievable talent. The patience is on all of us [gestures to the audience]. Like we have to be patient. But as players you’re never patient with yourself. You’re patient with each other, but never with yourself. You wanna be there now. And you work to be there now with the understanding that it is gonna take time, but you want to be there now. That’s the way you accelerate growth. And they have a lot of potential, man. They’ll figure it out.”
Bryant is right in this respect: Preaching that fans and the organization should be patient with players isn’t the same as saying the players should be patient. As he notes, players won’t be. They all want to be better, but it’s up to the rest of us to remember that these guys are in their teens or early 20s, and that players don’t normally hit their prime until their mid-to-late 20s.
We have years of evidence of this, but despite that, there is also a constant hunger to know what these guys are right now. That’s why people act like summer league matters, or why we pretend to know anything about a player 10 games into their rookie season. It’s also why there is tons of noise to trade Brandon Ingram right now because he can’t possibly fit with LeBron James, despite there being absolutely no way to know that for sure yet (even if it looks likely).
So Bryant is right. These young Lakers deserve time to grow their own games, and time to see how they fit in with James. At 16-10, the Lakers might be doing better than some expected, but this was always supposed to be a non-title-contending gap year where the franchise could figure out which youngsters meshed with James in both the short and long term.
The Lakers deserve that 82-game-or-so sample size at the very least, and then the front office can decide which players they’re going to continue to be patient with, and which ones (if any) are going to do their growing elsewhere.
*since he retired.
**except for that one time he asked to be shipped to Pluto if they didn’t get better right away and also other times.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.