31 May 2007

"It's Kobe, He Changed His Mind Again"

Said by Charles Barkley during the halftime of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

(he did so after checking his phone in the middle of their analyst roundtable, all time NBA great, one of the best personalities on TV, and prop comic, the man can do everything)

Guess it's about time I mentioned the Kobe thing 'aka' the full employment act for LA based Sports Talk Radio hosts.

He's been busy. He's upset at the folks upstairs with the Lakers. He wants out, he wants in, he wants Jerry West.

Here's my take. This is an internal Buss family matter with Dr. Jerry Buss and son Jim Buss on one side with Jeanie Buss and s/o Phil Jackson on the other. By most accounts, Mitch Kupchak is Jim's guy, and in accord with Jerry's decision to hold down the salaries and try and compete on the cheap. Phil came back to the Lakers expecting them to give him an opportunity to pass Red Auerbach and collect his 10th championship as coach. He's upset, and he's super close to Kobe the second time around. I think Jeanie is involved cause she might feel a bit slighted that Jim is back with the family business even though he turned his back on it for some time, only to come back and be thrust into a more important position than she has, despite Jeanie having been with the Lakers for her whole adult life.

Dr. Jerry Buss (sure his doctorate is in chemistry, not medicine, but whenever it's official Laker business they always call him "Dr. Jerry Buss", so I'll do the same) is the poorest team owner in American major sport, he's the only owner whose primary source of income is his team. He's at a huge disadvantage when it comes to competing with the billionaires and consortiums that now make up the majority of team owners. But the Lakers are one of the most valuable franchises in all of sports and he has under contract one of the most marketable stars across all sports, so he should bite the bullet, pay the luxury tax, pursue a quality free agent and put a team around Kobe that has a chance to win now. Kobe may play at a top level for another decade, or he may only have 3-4 years left. Whichever team he's on must have a sense of urgency and he needs to be surrounded by players that match his intensity, or else he'll eat them alive. The Bulls during their hey day reflected Jordan, and most all the players filled their roles well. So far Odom has not been Kobe's Pippen, but that's still a possibility. Odom's very talented, and when you see him play well you wonder why he's not a perennial all star, but then he has stretches where he's invisible, and he's never seemed comfortable deferring to Kobe. Kwame Brown has shown flashes of being a great gamble, but those are two far and between. Andrew Bynum is a project, and even though his potential made the choice to pick him seem sound, his inability to contribute now makes him a greater asset as trade bait then a possible piece in a future dynasty.

If everyone had stayed healthy, the Lakers might have made the Western Conference finals and none of this blow up would have happened. The Lakers didn't do any worse in the playoffs then the Heat, Mavericks, Nuggets, or Rockets. A lot of teams that seemed like they could contend for a championship this year, are watching the playoffs just like Kobe and the Lakers.

The soap opera known as "The Lakers" this off season may end up being more entertaining than the team was this past post-season.

I'd hate to see Kobe go, being able to see all his games is a real treat. His frustration is the sign of a competitor, and I'm surprised to see that most of the press he's received has been semi-supportive. Sure he's been a bit whiny this week, but he's been whiny for cause, and if this spat with the front office causes them to shake up the roster in a good way, it will end up being better for all involved.


If you want to make your own Kobe trade, ESPN has the "Trade Machine", I came up with a four team trade that involved Boston, Atlanta, Knicks and Lakers with Kobe ending up with the Knicks and the Lakers getting Joe Johnson from Atlanta (among others), and Paul Pierce getting screwed (aka getting sent to Atlanta).

Also, Bill Simmons at ESPN comes up with a few possible trades of his own, with his favorite being a swap with Phoenix that would improve both teams and would in his words match, "The most selfish player in the league (Kobe) playing with the most unselfish player in the league (Nash). What a fascinating sociological experiment. If Nash can turn Kobe into a team player, I'm voting him for our 2008 president even though he's Canadian."

No comments: