Howard left in free agency in the off-season, while Bryant and Nash both missed much of the next season due to injury, which contributed significantly to the Lakers' losing record in 2013-14. Bryant missed much of the next season due to another injury, and the Lakers finished 21-61. He announced his retirement on September 7, 2016.
When a player is under contract for more than one year, they are considered tied up until the end of their current deal. In this case, Kobe was tied up for four more years with the Lakers, since he didn't have any intentions of coming back after his retirement announcement.
Kobe wanted to continue playing at a high level well into his 40's like Michael Jordan, so it made sense for him to retire now while he was still able to compete at a high level. As soon as he retired, he became a free agent and could have signed with any team he wanted. However, it seemed like everyone wanted him to return home to the Los Angeles Lakers, so he decided to join them instead.
Kobe missed 16 games, and the Lakers missed the playoffs for the first time since 1993-94. Kobe's attempt to lead the Lakers as the team's alpha dog did not go well. The Lakers were expected to contend this season after adding Dwight Howard in a trade with the Orlando Magic.
Kobe Bryant is one of the most talented players of all time, but he has never been able to win at a high level without strong supporting roles from his teammates. Although he made an effort to change that this season by taking on a more limited role, it wasn't enough to save his career or the Lakers franchise.
In 2016, Kobe will be 36 years old. He already has five championships and is one victory away from tying Michael Jordan for most of America's favorite player. However, unlike Jordan who retired after winning one title, Kobe has yet to capture his first ring.
Given his age and his history of injuries, there's a good chance we won't see Kobe play again. If that happens, he will have lost three straight seasons for the first time in his career. It's also possible he could continue playing if he lands a job with a new team. In 2017, we'll find out if Kobe Bryant can still hang up his sneakers for good.
Howard was dismissed from Game 4 of the Lakers' playoff series against the Spurs, and he seemed to exchange words with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak on his way to the locker room. Short of a lottery trip, the season couldn't have ended any worse. After failing to agree on a new contract, the all-star center decided to exercise his right to free agency.
Even though the Rockets were one of the worst teams in 2012-13, they had enough talent to make the playoffs. Once there, however, they would've been swept by the Clippers in four games. This season, they would've faced the Warriors in the first round. It's easy to see that bringing in Howard was a good move for Houston; it will be interesting to see if they can keep him past this season.
During his time in Los Angeles, Howard won two NBA championships, made three All-Star games, and was named the league's best center twice (2009-10, 2011-12). However, the Lakers were never able to reach the next level of success without him. Even after signing Kobe Bryant as a free agent last year, they still lost in the second round to the San Antonio Spurs. This indicates that even with Howard on their team, they weren't going to win many more titles.
It's possible that Howard wanted to play for a winner.
But there was a catch. Because of the way his previous teams ended, the Lakers wanted Howard to demonstrate his willingness to be a team player before making a season-long financial commitment to him. To Howard's credit, there was no major transition time. He showed up at training camp in great shape and ready to go. But the Lakers aren't sure he's going to be able to adapt to their style of play after playing for so long with the Magic, where he was one of the main players on that team.
Here's how much money each Laker will make this season: Kobe Bryant - $24 million Steve Nash - $9 million Jordan Clarkson - $1.5 million D'Angelo Russell - $1.45 million Larry Nance Jr.
In a 113-100 loss against the Suns, the Lakers were eliminated from the playoffs, therefore ending their attempt for a championship repeat. For the second-seeded Suns, who won three straight games to send LeBron James to his first-round series loss in his 18-year NBA career.
After losing their first two games to the lower-seeded Wizards, many thought that the Lakers had played themselves out of any chance at making the playoffs. However, through some heroic performances from Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, along with a strong effort from otherwise-questionable players, the Lakers managed to stay alive and finish the season with five wins in their final six games. In the playoffs, they faced the Suns again, this time winning four games to advance to the Finals for the third consecutive year.
However, their run came to an end after they lost the first game of the series 99-88. From that point on, the Lakers didn't have much trouble falling to the Thunder in four games. With their legacy intact, however, the Lakers can always look back on this season as a positive one. They proved that even though they are aging, they can still play good basketball when needed. Also, having said that, it's very unlikely that we'll see them return next season.
Bryant sprained his ankle in the second quarter of Game 2 of the 2000 Finals against the Indiana Pacers after falling on Pacers' Jalen Rose's foot. Bryant hit the game-winning jumper, putting the Lakers ahead 120-118. The Lakers won their first title since 1988 with a 116-111 victory in Game 6. After the season, Bryant was awarded the MVP award.
Bryant also received criticism for leaving the game in the second half of the Finals while being down 3-1. He returned for Game 4 but didn't play well and the Lakers lost that game. Los Angeles went on to lose the next three games so without him they could never really get back into the series. In the end, it wasn't enough to save his season or career as some have suggested it might have been had he stayed in the game through four losses.
Bryant's injury occurred when Rose stepped on his ankle as he fell toward the floor. The injury forced Bryant to miss the remainder of the season as well as the following year. Without Bryant, the Lakers failed to win a single game in the 2001 Finals vs. New Jersey Nets. The Lakers would go on to lose the series 4-0.
Bryant returned for the start of the 2002-03 season but missed the first 14 games of the season due to another ankle injury.