As for Bryant’s present, he’s not going away

As night follows day and lean years follow fat ones, after the Lakers’ Summer from Hell and their Training Camp from Hell comes their Opener from Hell.

Of course, there’s intense interest to see if Kobe Bryant remains a Laker even that long, but that’s easy to account for.

Everyone is out of their gourds.

In another entry for our growing collection of Orson Welles Martian sightings, such as the “Loose Cannons” report Bryant had cleaned out his locker, said the Lakers and Chicago Bulls were in daily talks that were “very real” and had “been real for a while.”


This made a deal look so imminent, ESPN2’s “First Take” asked the Chicago Tribune’s Sam Smith to come on at 8:30 a.m. Monday.

Happily for Smith, he knew there was no trade even close and slept in.

There’s something going on, all right, but it’s about where Bryant really is, as opposed to the picture he gave at practice Monday in one of his engaging set pieces, designed to convince everyone they didn’t see what they think they saw.

Despite Phil Jackson’s concern about Bryant’s mood, nothing was wrong. (“I’m fine. I’m playing like crap, but I’m fine.”)

He was aware of the trade story but wasn’t involved and didn’t know whether his agent, Rob Pelinka, was. (“Ask Rob.”)

Nor could Kobe say if he would be here all season (“I’m not Nostradamus”) but remains committed to his teammates (“We’re a close-knit group”).

There’s a metaphor for this, the baseball parable about the big leaguer who’s walking down the street with his girlfriend when he runs into his wife and asks her, “Who are you going to believe, me or your eyes?”

Pelinka, who didn’t return a call so I could ask him, reportedly was so involved as a middle man that without him there might not have been any talks.

Unfortunately, there’s a huge deal-breaker: Luol Deng.

The Bulls are adamant about keeping him. The Lakers won’t consider a deal without him. However, if the Lakers get Deng and Ben Gordon, Bryant may not want to go there and try to win with what’s left.

Aside from that, the talks are going swimmingly.

This isn’t like baseball super-agent Scott Boras pushing one of his many high-priced clients. In this relationship, Bryant commands.

So, just in case Bryant hasn’t really been fine, it may be because he again pinned his hopes -- unrealistically -- to getting out of here now.

Neither the Lakers nor Bryant has an attractive option. The Lakers are stuck with their predicament. Bryant blames his on them.

Bryant and Pelinka think General Manager Mitch Kupchak’s cautious style cost the Lakers Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O’Neal and Jason Kidd.

Actually, Kupchak pulled out the stops on Garnett, offering Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom, but Minnesota boss Kevin McHale preferred Boston’s package.

Kupchak offered Odom but not Bynum for O’Neal -- according to the consensus among Lakers officials, including Jackson, who said Bynum and Odom would have been “too much.”

Kupchak wouldn’t give up Bynum for Kidd last season, but that was also the consensus among Lakers officials with Jackson in agreement.

Now is reporting the Lakers front office is “a house divided . . . [with] one faction [that] seems more determined than ever to part with Bryant.”

There are, indeed, factions: Jerry and Jim Buss, Kupchak and the front office, and a third power center represented by Jackson and Jeanie Buss.

However, the only faction with any desire to trade Bryant now is the one made up of Bryant himself, and no one is asking him.

No one else wants to trade him for the best possible reason: This is low tide for deals with teams optimistic, however delusional, going into the season.

Not that optimism in Lakerdom is what it was, with Bryant’s head spinning 180 degrees like Linda Blair’s in “The Exorcist” every two weeks: positive on media day, stunned by Jerry Buss’ comments, snapping back to positive Monday.

Nevertheless, Bryant knows he has to show he’s still the Kobe Bryant who’s really worth all this.

When he told Jackson the last thing Jackson had to worry about was his commitment, he was right.

His shots may or may not drop, but that will be the real Kobe Bryant out there, who has always risen to his best when things looked their worst.

He’s Kobe. His whole career has been like this. Welcome back to his world, even if just for one last go-around, Lakers fans.