Imagining Kobe In Another Uniform

NBA free agency provides some hope for fans who dream the big new addition to their team will lead to championship banners.

Certainly the Houston Rockets will be improved if Dwight Howard can return to his form of a couple of years ago, but I’m still not sure that’s a championship-caliber club. And while the other suitors are disappointed, they can now begin to look through the discount racks to find that usable piece.

Interesting that the Cavaliers have made a solid offer to Andrew Bynum, who despite pulling down $16.9 million from the 76ers last year did not play a single minute due to injury. And the Lakers have signed Chris Kaman, a former all-star with the Clippers who was used sparingly by the Mavericks in his only season in Dallas. Not a move that is going to pop champagne corks, but a relative bargain at $3.2 million.

With an aging Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant coming off Achilles surgery, it might be time for the Lakers to consider a Celtic – like rebuilding project. While it would be difficult to trade Kobe because of salary and cap considerations, it might be in the Lakers’ best long-term interests. And Bryant could finish his career with a team that could contend for a title. Imagine Kobe going to Memphis, for example. The Grizzlies have one glaring deficiency, an inability to score from the perimeter. Kobe solves that immediately, and I like Memphis’s chances in the West as much as anybody’s if they have Kobe.

* The Detroit Lions signing an extension with quarterback Matt Stafford for $53 million over three years with $41.5 million guaranteed was a shock to some, but in the modern era it is imperative to have a competent quarterback if you are going to contend. Despite having a poor 20/17 touchdown-to-interception ratio last year, Stafford is strong-armed, experienced and capable.

And he’s been working without a real running game, The question becomes: Could they get somebody better in free agency or the draft? Probably not. And his salary represents about 14 percent of their salary cap at present rates.

What seemed to surprise most was the guaranteed portion, which was nearly 80 percent of the contract. Giants receiver Victor Cruz got a $46 million deal, but only $15.6 million was guaranteed, a percentage much more common. But after huge deals for other quarterbacks – Baltimore’s Joe Flacco and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers – Detroit was unwilling to fall behind.

* Tuesday’s MLB All Star Game will be the last time we’ll get to see Mariano Rivera in the Midsummer Classic and also the final time we’ll witness any player wearing No. 42 in the game. Rivera, widely acknowledged as the greatest closer in baseball history, was grandfathered in when MLB retired Jackie Robinson’s number.

Rivera announced that he would retire after this season, and baseball is saying farewell. Not much question that Rivera will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer and it should be unanimous, but we know that never happens.