One scenario on the personnel grapevine gaining steam is the notion that the Spurs could elect to explore the possibility of dealing away Tiago Splitter to create more financial flexibility. Splitter has two years left on his contract valued at just under $17 million and is quietly regarded as a key contributor in San Antonio given how well he fits as a frontcourt sidekick next to Duncan. But if you’re the Spurs — and if the increasingly loud rumbles about Aldridge having San Antonio as the preferred destination atop his wish list prove true — examining Splitter’s trade market might suddenly become unavoidable.
November 26, 2015 | 10:02 pm EST Update
November 26, 2015 | 8:07 pm EST Update
But NBA executives, players and talent evaluators interviewed by The Times felt differently. They would not criticize Bryant on the record, almost universally citing respect for a career in which he won five championships and set a standard with a maniacal work ethic and drive. This Bryant, however, is not the one they want to remember. “Man, I don’t want to see Kobe go out like this, looking this bad and not able to do what he once could do,” said a retired guard who faced Bryant. “He doesn’t have anything else to prove to anybody. He was one of the greatest. I know he’s owed that $25 million, but he should just walk away now. He ain’t got it anymore.”
An Eastern Conference executive seemed almost melancholy when discussing the player he followed since Bryant attended Lower Merion (Pa.) High. “He’s one of the few players in NBA history to have gotten everything possible out of his body. Now his body has nothing left to give,” he said. “But that’s life in the NBA, in professional sports. At some point, the body just can’t do it anymore and Kobe’s body can’t do it anymore.”
One West scout said Bryant looked “disinterested” at times. A current player in the West went a step further. “Yeah, I’ve seen him play and it’s disgusting,” he said. “He’s one of the best of all time. But he really hasn’t played that much in the last two or three years. He’s got nothing left. It’s sad to watch because he used to be so great, and I mean great.”