A day after the Lakers shipped Steve Blake to the Golden State Warriors for a pair of reserve guards in Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks -- saving them $4 million in salary and luxury-tax implications in the process -- Bryant took to social media and weighed in with a tweet that, according to a source with knowledge of his thinking, was meant to show support and love to Blake.
Not cool with @SteveBlake5 being gone AT ALL One of my closest teammates and psycho competitor GS picked up gem #smartmoveIn the nearly four seasons that Bryant and Blake were teammates after the point guard came to L.A. as a free agent in the summer of 2010, Bryant often lauded Blake for his tough-nosed approach to the game, even bestowing him with the nickname "Vino Bianco," a remix of his own self-appointed monikers of "Vino" and the "Black Mamba."
- Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) February 20, 2014
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak downplayed the salary-cap incentive to do the deal Thursday, saying "with this organization, that kind of relief is not really a big number." Rather, he said it gave L.A. the chance to evaluate young talent that could be a part of the team moving forward.
"It really got to the point where we needed to free up some time in the backcourt to look at Jordan [Farmar] and give Kendall [Marshall] the time that he's earned and let's review and evaluate where we are with those two players," Kupchak said. "And the other part of it is, we got back two young players that are developing."
After spending the last 18 seasons together with the Lakers, it's nothing new for Kupchak to hear Bryant voice his opinion.
Bryant famously ripped team management for leaving Pau Gasol twisting in the wind when trade rumors swirled in February 2012, causing Kupchak to release a statement saying that pursuing trades is part of his responsibility as a GM.
Kupchak expects to hear more input from Bryant this summer, when the team will have anywhere from $22 million to $28 million to spend in free agency.
"I'm sure he'll tell me the players that he'd like to have, and if it's in line with what we would like to have, then I think there will be some influence," Kupchak said. "But if we're on opposite ends, then there probably won't be much influence."
The question remains how much influence, if any, Bryant will have on the court for the remainder of the 2013-14 season for the 18-36 Lakers.
Bryant, sidelined since Dec. 17 with a fracture in his left knee, has not been re-evaluated after having his timeline for a return pushed back in late January because of pain and swelling in the knee. A Lakers team spokesman said it was possible Bryant would be examined by Dr. Steve Lombardo before Friday's game against the Boston Celtics, but Bryant's status remains undetermined.
Kupchak said the team would not pressure the 35-year-old Bryant to return with just 28 games remaining in the season and L.A. 13½ games out of a playoff spot entering Thursday.