Each week, ESPN.com Lakers beat writer Baxter Holmes, along with ESPN.com NBA writers Ramona Shelburne and Arash Markazi, will weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Los Angeles Lakers followers.
1. Should the Lakers trade Kobe Bryant?
Holmes: No. Even in a lost season, they need Kobe for TV ratings, to justify their ticket prices, to keep interest high especially when the Los Angeles Clippers are the far better team. Kobe is all the Lakers have going for them now -- and that's even more true with Julius Randle out for the season. Of course, none of those are basketball reasons -- a phrase that forever lives in infamy with Lakers fans -- but it's hard to imagine the Lakers getting anything in return for Kobe that would appease their fans/sponsors/etc. enough to make the deal feel worth it.
Shelburne: NOOOOOO. What would they get for him that helps the rebuild? Any trade at this point would be a salary dump. And you do not salary dump Kobe Bryant. The only reason to trade him would be if he wanted to end his career with a clear chance at a ring. But he's not signaling that at all. If anything, he seems committed to sticking with the franchise through the lean times, no matter how bad things get. We're only in early November. As the losses mount, we'll see if everyone sings the same tune. Knowing Kobe and knowing the Lakers, I think they will. He's too important to their legacy and sticking with the Lakers for his entire career is too important to Kobe's legacy. Not many superstars play their entire career with one franchise. Michael Jordan didn't. Neither will LeBron. Neither did Kareem. Kobe has the opportunity to do that and he will.
Markazi: The hopeless romantic in me says no, that Kobe should finish his career as a Laker and play all 20 seasons of his NBA career in Los Angeles. The basketball realist in me says yes. The Lakers are going to be one of the worst teams in the NBA this season with Kobe and all signs point to them being pretty bad next season, too. As long as Kobe's contract is on the books for $25 million per season, it's going to be hard for the Lakers to begin rebuilding for the future. So if they can get a package of players and picks that makes sense, they should certainly look into it. Realistically, I don't think that they ever will, though, and Kobe will retire a Laker.
2. Should Ed Davis be in the starting lineup?
Holmes: Yes. He has been a pleasant surprise off the bench, scoring double-digit points in four of the Lakers' first five games ... whereas Carlos Boozer has really struggled, including posting twice as many turnovers (eight) as points in a road loss at Phoenix. Whenever Davis has been on the court, good things seem to happen for the Lakers. It would be nice to see what he could do with more playing time.
Shelburne: Yes, like yesterday. He reminds me of Jordan Hill last season: really good as an energizer off the bench and you always shook your head and thought, "If he's this good in 20 minutes, what could he do in 35 minutes?" Well, Hill is showing what he can do as a starter this season and I think Davis would have the same impact if he moved into that role. I know that means Boozer would go to the bench, but at this point, the Lakers need to try things -- anything they can -- to create some sparks.
Markazi: Yes. Lakers fans were already down on Boozer when he came to the team and he has done very little to change that opinion. Boozer is averaging 10.4 points and 5.6 rebounds, shooting 44 percent from the field and is a nightmare on defense. Meanwhile, Davis is averaging 10.4 points and 7.2 rebounds, shooting 66 percent from the field and is the team's best post defender. Not only is Davis playing better while playing fewer minutes off the bench, he is 25 and could be part of the Lakers' future. Boozer is turning 33 later this month and is basically a one-year rental. In a season that doesn't have many silver linings, developing Davis may actually be one of them.
3. Will the Lakers win three games before November ends?
Holmes: Nope. The only games that even look winnable for the Lakers are against Charlotte at home this Sunday, and then at home against Minnesota later this month. Then again, the Hornets were a playoff team last season, and the Timberwolves have Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic, and Kevin Martin is piling up points. Beyond that, the Lakers' November schedule is a gantlet. They might need some luck to avoid being blown out of several of those games.
Shelburne: Yes, but I'm really not confident in saying that. They have such a brutal schedule this month it's hard to see where the wins come from. Sunday against Charlotte looks like an opportunity. But if they don't get that one, it could be a while. Six of the next seven games are against playoff teams. It's not until home games on Nov. 23 against Denver and Nov. 28 against Minnesota that the schedule lightens up a bit. I'm going to say they get all three of those games, but I say that without a ton of conviction.
Markazi: This question really drives home how long this season will be, right? I'll play the law of averages and say yes. The Lakers came close to winning two of their first five games and I have to think they'll find a way to close out at least three of their first 17 games.