As the "Kobe to the Bulls" rumor seems to have reached a plateau in terms of the ways the media can go with it, we now have rumors of a new team being a "dark horse" in the Kobe sweepstakes: the Washington Wizards.
Our favorite rumor monger Sam Smith claims to have spoken to an anonymous General Manager who says that we should "watch out" for the Wizards jumping in and trying to make a deal for Kobe. This deal would requiring them shipping Gilbert Arenas to L.A., along with someone like Andray Blatche or Nick Young.
Marc Stein from ESPN feels that there is at least some validity to the Wizards' interest, saying in a chat today that he would classify it as definitely more than a rumor:
Washington's interest, I'm told, is definitely genuine. What we don't know yet is whether Kobe would be amenable to Washington or exactly how much the Wiz would be willing to part with. But the Lakers would be hard-pressed to do better than a package that features Gilbert Arenas and (if they're lucky) Andray Blatche . . . as long as Gil were willing to agree to a contract extension with his hometown Lakers as opposed to opting out at season's end.
I agree that the Lakers will not see a better offer than this one, in terms of bringing a legitimate superstar back to L.A. in return for Kobe. We all know Gilbert is the real deal, and he also has the personality to make the fans at least a little bit okay with losing the league's best player. As for the Wizards, Arenas is going to opt-out after this season (if only to get a max deal), and I think most teams would choose Kobe over Gilbert if it's going to cost them relatively the same amount of money.
So would Kobe waive his no-trade clause and accept a deal to the Wizards? I think so. Remember, Kobe became close friends with Caron Butler before the Lakers traded him, and he would probably be very happy to be reunited with him in the Eastern Conference. All Kobe wants is a chance to get back to competing deep into the playoffs, and based on how LeBron was able to single-handedly take a team to the Finals in the East last year, I think Kobe would like his chances to do the same in Washington.