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For his latest trick, is Kobe masquerading as a Laker?

The Lakers are about to begin the season and the Kobester says he likes his teammates, likes the team’s improvement since the start of camp and is “excited to see how Andrew Bynum develops.”

So the answer to the next question should be obvious: “Do you want to play the rest of this season with the Lakers?”

It’s a no-brainer. He likes everybody, likes the team’s improvement, and the guy he said “sucks” a few months back is now someone who excites him as a basketball player.

So all the Kobester has to say is, “Yes, I want to play for the Lakers the rest of this season.”

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But instead, he says, “You know what, wherever I play, I’m ready to go.”

“I understand that,” I reply. “But do you want to play the rest of the season with the Lakers?”

“I wanted to play my whole career with the Los Angeles Lakers,” he says. “But I understand business is business.”

“No,” I reply, “it gets back to what you want to do because you did start the process . . .”

“I’m focusing on this team, brother,” he says, and how could he pick up and just move away from his brother?

FROM THE start of the off-season, beginning with the snit over Jerry West and all the mixed messages that have followed -- including “I want to be a Laker for life” and please, trade me -- just what is the Kobester trying to say?

“Dr. Buss said business is business,” he says. “I understand that, so until something jumps off -- I’ve got nothing to say. It would be unfair to my teammates and what we’re trying to do here.”

Now I have no idea what’s going “to jump off,” unless he’s referring to Lakers fans preparing to leap from the tallest mountain once a trade is announced. There was no chance to ask, because some of the members of the fawning media interrupted -- to give the Kobester a break.

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“Halloween is coming up, you got your costumes?” a reporter asks, stopping short of asking his hero if they might “trick or treat” together.

A better question might have been, “So did you get some Halloween shopping in while your teammates were in Las Vegas playing basketball over the weekend?”

“What are you going to be for Halloween?” the reporter wonders, and don’t we all?

“Lord Voldemort,” the Kobester says, stumping the reporter.

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“Harry Potter,” the Kobester says.

Someone tries to ask the Kobester about Chicago trade talk -- but the fawning media comes to the rescue again.

“Kobe, I talked to Javaris and Mo Evans,” the Halloween reporter says, “and they personally told me you’ve been working with them on their game -- what specifically?”

There’s a time and place for everything, even stupid, fawning questions, and I’m sure the Kobester will be more than happy to answer them when he gets to Chicago. . . .

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“Kobe, you talked about your Halloween costume,” another reporter says, and for the record Vic the Brick wasn’t in attendance. “What’s scarier, you running around the community dressed as Lord Voldemort, or you not in a Laker uniform for the city of L.A.?”

“I don’t know,” the Kobester says, and wouldn’t it be just a scream if he dressed up as a Bull for Halloween?

MY TURN again. “Is this team good enough to satisfy your competitive interests?” I ask.

“Yeah, we got some good pieces, we got some good pieces,” he repeats. “It’s just about us jelling together and playing well as a unit and getting guys healthy.”

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I warn him, “I’m back-dooring this,” and he says, “I know you are.”

“Does this group make you happy as a player and a competitive player?”

“I’m happy being around them,” he says. “I’m happy competing with them. The talent that we have on this team is good.

“We got some young players that can do some things. I’m really pleased with Andrew Bynum, he’s come back a lot stronger, he’s got his legs underneath him and he’s been playing extremely well so I’m excited to see how he develops.”

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And that brings me to this: “So you can see our confusion -- why not simply say I don’t want to be traded? You have a no-trade clause, you can make that statement and it’s over.”

“Go talk to [Laker management] about it,” he says. “You want to talk trade, go talk to management.”

“But no,” I say, “you can end the conversation.” He’s the one who started the trade conversation last spring, and he’s the one who can put an end to the trade talk. If the Kobester doesn’t want a trade, Jerry Buss can devote his attention to his latest escort.

“You want to talk about this team, I can do that all day long,” he says. “Any other questions about this team?”

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Someone else asks about the teams he might be interested in playing for, and he says he’s not going to comment, or “add fuel to the fire.”

The Kobester keeps saying things that make no sense.

He really likes everyone, the improvement his teammates have shown, and blah, blah, blah. He says “we’re really a close-knit group,” but obviously he still wants to play elsewhere, although I recall he once said, “I want to be a Laker for life.”

“Don’t you understand your mixed messages are the fuel to the fire?” I say.

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“I understand a lot of people misinterpreted what I said . . .”

“Well, here’s your chance,” I say, to set the record straight.

“Wouldn’t you love that?” he says, and wouldn’t we all?

TODAY’S LAST word comes in e-mail from Armendariz Silva:

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“I was born and raised in El Paso. I am a graduate of U.T.E.P. I have attended the Sun Bowl games for as long as I can remember. . . . I now live in the Los Angeles area. I found your article on the possibility of the USC Trojans playing in the Sun Bowl game to be very upsetting. . . .”

I’m glad you were able to escape, and speak to the horror of what it’s like to spend time there.

--

T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Simers, go to latimes.com/simers.

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