Kobe Bryant lashed out at Lakers management after Sunday's loss to Phoenix, saying that the constant trade rumors involving Pau Gasol since before the season started are taking their toll on the team.
Writers from around the Tribune Co. discuss who will come out on top in this latest perceived battle between the Lakers star and General Manager Mitch Kupchak. Check back throughout the day for more responses and join the discussion with a comment of your own.
Ben Bolch, Los Angeles Times
It's no contest, really. Did Mitch Kupchak listen when Kobe Bryant wanted out of Los Angeles a few summers back? Did Kupchak hear that Bryant wanted Jason Kidd and subsequently ship out Andrew Bynum? Did Kupchak call the Dallas Mavericks and request that they send back Lamar Odom upon learning that Bryant was upset with the deal?
Bryant whines and Kupchak wins in the battle between superstar player and his GM. And that's the way it should be, unless the Lakers want to give Bryant a dual role of making the baskets and calling the shots. He's having enough trouble with the former task as it is.
Ultimately, Kupchak will decide whether he can improve the Lakers by dealing Pau Gasol before the March 15 trade deadline and Bryant will be left telling us how he feels about the move but powerless to do anything about it.
K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune
Forgive Mitch Kupchak if he yawns. Of course, yawning can cause one to close his or her eyes, and the Lakers' general manager certainly isn't going to blink during this latest installment of "Days of Our Kobe."
Look, Kobe and Kupchak are far more similar than different, wired to win at all costs. Kupchak may do so in a far more behind-the-scenes, and less expletive-filled, manner. But both bleed purple and gold and victories. So Kupchak, as usual, will win in this latest mini-personnel pull. Remember when Kobe demanded to be traded in the summer of 2007? That was how many NBA Finals appearances ago?
The Lakers no longer are among the NBA's elite. But no matter what Kobe demands regarding resolution for Pau Gasol, expect Kupchak to make the best move to try to put the Lakers back in position to be elite again. That's what Kupchak's impressive track record has proven through the various chatter of Kobe, Shaq, even World Peace.
[Updated at 1:13 p.m.:
Ira Winderman, South Florida Sun Sentinel
Neither. The answer is: The Buss family. Always.
Recall, Kobe wanted Andrew Bynum gone. Not only didn't that happen, but the Lakers went on to win a pair of championships.
Mitch Kupchak could not possibly have wanted to cast aside Lamar Odom for absolutely nothing in return. But that's a deal that did happen.
The Lakers are in a dark place right now. Kupchak is finding his hands tied; Mike Brown hardly is coming off as a definitive leader.
Into the void, as always, steps Kobe. It's as if we're back in the Rudy T. era.
Without Phil Jackson in place to hold it all together, it's the post-Shaq era all over again.
In the end, the Busses, well, drive this bus. Perhaps off a cliff this time, but they nonetheless aren't about to cede control. To Mitch. Or to Kobe.]