BILL PLASCHKE

Kobe Bryant's rich new contract may be Lakers' Achilles' heel

Heck, this is about looking at what has happened right in the Lakers own gym, with Steve Nash, an aging Hall of Fame guard whose shiny one-year-old contract has quickly become a huge burden.

Why the expensive rush? It is worth noting that in General Manager Mitch Kupchak's statement lauding the new contract, he didn't once mention a championship.

"To play 20 years in the NBA and to do so with the same team is unprecedented and quite an accomplishment,'' Kupchak said. "More importantly, however, it assures us that one of the best players in the world will remain a Laker, bringing us excellent play and excitement for years to come.''

The keyword here, it seems, is excitement. The Lakers have long been built on excitement, and Bryant epitomizes the word, and the recent ending of their 320-game sellout streak shows how dull things can be without him.

It appears the Laker management, in its first full season without the brilliant and beloved Jerry Buss, feared the team was losing its buzz and nervously put together a deal to bring it back.

But the late owner Buss, who practically invented buzz, knew the greatest entertainment was titles. Buss, you'll remember, was even willing to trade the biggest buzz of all, a guy named Shaquille O'Neal, for the sake of rebuilding a new champion.

This seems like a different organization, a different family, one which operates more impulsively – firing Mike Brown, hiring Mike D'Antoni – without a thoughtful blueprint for the future.

Kobe Bryant will indeed bring back that special brand of Laker excitement. Far less certain today is the return of that special brand of Laker greatness.

Bill.plaschke@latimes.com

Twitter: @latimes.com

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