The future of the Black Mamba

The Spectrum

The consequence of Kobe Bryant's injury to this season's Lakers is simple: they're done. If they are fortunate enough to make the playoffs, a first round sweep against the Thunder or Spurs is inevitable.

The questions that remain for the 2013-14 season's prospectus are a bit more interesting, though. The Lakers have a lot of decisions to make.

Has Kobe suited up for the last time in the NBA?

Through Kobe's near two-decades-long stint in the NBA, we have seen him conquer a variety of injuries, constantly playing through pain and inventing himself as a 'warrior' of sorts on the court.

This injury however, will take more out of Kobe than any he has ever experienced. The recovery period is said to be six to nine months. I'll assume it will be closer to the latter considering his age and recent struggles with other leg injuries. This would slate his return to near the all-star break of next season.

Kobe had previously said next year will be his last in the NBA, but a brief two-month return after the all-star break doesn't seem to be worth it.

Does this mean Kobe will attempt to extend his career past what he already claimed? Under the circumstances, it's possible. But the severity of this injury could be enough to put him over the edge and lead him to call it quits.

"Do I have the consistent will to overcome this thing?" Kobe said in a Facebook post. "Maybe I should break out the rocking chair and reminisce on the career that was. Maybe this is how my book ends."

Just a few sentences later, in the same post, he makes you believe otherwise.

"One day, the beginning of a new career journey will commence," Kobe said. "Today is NOT that day."

We probably won't know his decision for some time, but what I do know is that if there is one person in the NBA who can recover from this and prove the impossible once again, it's Kobe.

Though the bigger question may not be what Kobe is going to do, but what will the Lakers do?

With Kobe's injury leaving a majority of his season next year in doubt, the Lakers need to make re-signing Dwight Howard their first priority. If Howard re-signs with L.A., he is eligible to make about $30 million more than he could by signing with any other team.

So let's assume they get Howard back. With their current roster they will be $30 million over the cap, prompting an $85 million luxury tax penalty. It's safe to say the Buss family won't be interested in paying that tax with the star player watching from the bleachers for most of the season.

In this case, decisions need to be made: Who will stay and who will go?

Because Steve Nash is owed too much money for any team to take on his contract, there are two likely options: amnesty Kobe (amnesty clause states you can waive a player without his salary affecting the team's salary; the player must have been signed prior to 2011-12 season) or trade Pau Gasol. Either move would help the Lakers avoid the colossal luxury tax they would owe.

If I were the Lakers, I'd have to lean towards amnestying Kobe. He has, at most, two years left in him and the move would save the team millions. Who's to say after all the wear and tear Kobe has faced this season and in recent years that he will ever come back to 100 percent?

Trading Gasol means no Gasol or Kobe for the first half of the season, making it tougher to get Howard to re-sign.

Waiving Kobe - the face of the franchise for 17 years - would be a cold-blooded decision, but at the end of the day, the NBA is a business and the Lakers need to make a move that is going to help set them up for success in the near future. No one will understand that better than Kobe.

Whichever path they decide to take, our days of seeing Kobe Bryant in the NBA - regardless what jersey he sports - are numbered. I'm glad to call myself a witness.