Lakers’ situation goes from drama to farce
The end is near, again.
The end of Lakerdom as we know it is near after their latest crisis when Kobe Bryant cleaned out his locker. . . .
Oh, he didn’t?
The grapevine almost went up in flames Tuesday when Bryant missed practice for the third day in a row amid reports that he had packed up his stuff and gone home.
Actually, someone got excited and told AM 570’s “Loose Cannons.” After that, it was like that broadcast describing the Martians landing in Grovers Mill, N.J.
ESPN Radio had already called to ask if I would go on the air and bloviate about it by the time we found out it hadn’t happened.
So the Lakers survive to fight another day!
Or not. If this isn’t over already, they can’t do this stuff any more.
It’s not like the days when Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal weren’t going anywhere even if O'Neal tried to get Bryant traded for Jason Kidd and Bryant tried to get Michael Jordan who was running the Washington Wizards to get him somehow.
Now longshots, the Lakers can’t afford snits -- like this one, now in Day 7 as events began to tumble out of control.
So Jerry Buss had better sit down with Bryant, fast.
It’s true, Buss has been a little detached. (Remember his eleventh-hour plea that persuaded Bryant to stay? He placed it from vacation in Croatia.)
So Buss had better re-attach himself before his season and his last chance to keep Bryant goes down the drain before opening night.
Hurt though Buss may have been by Bryant’s slurs -- which would explain the owner’s candor -- he couldn’t have meant to offend Bryant last week.
In fact, Lakers officials insisted from the moment Buss stopped talking that he hadn’t said anything new.
Unfortunately, he had.
His willingness to think the unthinkable and his resignation (“You can’t keep too many loyalties. You’ve got to look at it as a business. He looks at it the same way I look at it.”) represented a dramatic change of tone, reversing the position Lakers officials had taken all summer: Bryant was staying, period.
Nobody should be surprised if Bryant was stung. He had enough doubts about being here, which he put away to come back.
Given that this team will need everything he has to give, it’s not a good sign when the imperturbable Bryant starts getting perturbed.
Nor is it a good sign when teammates start noticing he hasn’t been around in a while.
This isn’t about whether Buss or Bryant was hurt first. They’re not dating. This is business.
Buss was entitled to be hurt, although calling out the man who never did anything but pay him the maximum and go to the wall for him made Bryant look bad, not Buss.
However, Bryant doesn’t get paid to be lucid or nice. He gets paid to play basketball, which he’s better at than anyone else.
As owner, Buss has to be the grownup. As a reward, he gets the profits.
Buss has to look Bryant in the eye and say, “I didn’t mean to suggest I want to trade you. I don’t.”
Ideally, Bryant will be gracious enough to say he wants to give it his all too, rather than ask to be traded again.
This isn’t about heroes and villains. Bryant has a right to pursue his best interest as Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and O'Neal did when they left fans behind in Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Orlando to come here.
The Lakers haven’t done one thing wrong, but a year from now, if Bryant’s being worshiped in some other -- presumably Eastern Conference -- city, no one outside Los Angeles will care.