The Silly (Bryant) Saga That Won't End
Kobe Bryant needs to quit it with his whining. In case you haven't heard, Bryant met with Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss in Barcelona last Friday and reiterated his desire to be traded, according to several reports out of Los Angeles. He also reportedly has a wish list of three teams - New York, Chicago and Phoenix.
The situation got even more ridiculous over the weekend, when the Associated Press referenced a blog posting from Bryant's website, www.kb24.com, that would've expressed his current disconnect with the franchise - if it wasn't originally posted on May 30. Then, there is an alleged video of Bryant bashing the Lakers' organization in front of shopping center in Southern California. A brief and profane preview is available on YouTube.
Bryant's reasons for frustration have been well documented ever since he tried to eclipse the NBA conference finals by requesting a trade, renouncing the demand and re-announcing the demand - in the same day, no less.
He feels betrayed. The Lakers aren't trying to surround him with enough pieces to win. They are treating him like some sort of circus sideshow act to sell tickets. Blah, blah, blah.
It's easy to understand how Bryant would be upset after his team has failed to make it out of the first round for three consecutive seasons. But he won't get sympathy from yours truly.
Last I checked Bryant has three championship rings. And while his desire to win a fourth, fifth or sixth ring is unquestioned, what makes his plight worse than Kevin Garnett's or any other ring-less all-star caliber-player?
For one, Bryant is partly responsible for the current mess in Los Angeles - and I don't care how he tries to spin it in his favor. By now, we're well aware that he is upset that "a Laker insider" placed the blame for the Lakers' struggles on Bryant. Well, duh. That wasn't the first time anyone made Bryant liable for the breakup of the Lakers.
No, Bryant didn't trade the Shaquille O'Neal - and, I sincerely believe him when he said that Buss didn't want to pay O'Neal a long-term deal, which led to his ouster - but Bryant did sign a seven-year, $136.4 million deal the day after O'Neal was traded to Miami.
It's not like Bryant stood in the way of the O'Neal trade. He smiled at the introductory press conference for Lamar Odom and Caron Butler and hugged them. He knew exactly what he was stepping into when he signed his long-term deal with the Lakers; that they were building a team around him. He no longer had to share the glory with Shaq. The Lakers were his team, and his team alone. He was going to have a chance to see what he could do without having to carry O'Neal all of those years.
Bryant said he didn't understand that the Lakers planned on rebuilding, but isn't that the definition of what a team does when it trades a future Hall of Famer for lesser talents? Has Orlando ever recovered from letting O'Neal leave for Los Angeles in 1996?
Playing with Smush Parker as your backcourt mate, and Kwame Brown as your starting center would drive anyone insane. Bryant is also angry that the Lakers have failed to make trades that allegedly could've landed Carlos Boozer, Baron Davis, Ron Artest, Jason Kidd and others in the past three years. But would those deals have increased the Lakers' chances of being any more than a first or second round playoff team in the Western Conference? I think not, especially when Boozer was the only player on that list who advanced to the conference finals (thanks largely to the Warriors upset of the Dallas Mavericks). The Jazz also has a pretty good team around Boozer.
But what Bryant has learned the past three years is that franchises with a history of success are not entitled to be in championship contention each year - no matter how prestigious the organization (Boston, Chicago and New York know all too well). He's stuck and he knows it.
It just strikes me as surprising, though, that after 11 years in the nation's second-largest media market, Bryant is handling this so clumsily. Allen Iverson met privately with Philadelphia general manager Billy King last December to let his demands be heard. Even Pau Gasol, a player who hails from Spain and plays in Memphis, made his initial desire to be dealt behind close doors instead in front of any radio station willing to listen.
Iverson and Gasol guys haven't advanced second round in the past six years. Bryant has only been asked to accept three lean years in Los Angeles and now he wants to bail? I get really upset with players who demand maximum dollars one year but eschew maximum responsibility once times get rough. We've seen it happen too often in the past two or three years, with Vince Carter and Baron Davis (and it is one of the reasons why I respect Garnett for holding his tongue the past three years when he has much more reason to complain). This does nothing to help the perception of some of the league's players as spoiled, selfish brats.
Bryant comes off as just another crybaby now, unable to handle the first sign of adversity while his younger counterparts (LeBron James and Dwyane Wade) continue to gain fame and success in an inferior Eastern Conference. Bryant obviously wants to move East, but there is no guarantee that he will step into a better situation. He desires to join a contender, but in order to get Bryant, wouldn't a team in contention have to surrender the majority of the pieces that make them a contender? Would it be smart to detonate your roster to get Bryant when he can opt out of his contract in 2009?
The Bulls have been mentioned as the team with the most attractive pieces to get Bryant, with any combination of the No. 9 pick in the draft next week, Luol Deng, Andres Nocioni, Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich or Tyrus Thomas. But why would the Bulls make that deal when they were just one low post player from getting to the NBA Finals without gutting their team? Let's say the Bulls offer the Lakers Deng, Nocioni (who would have to be packaged in a sign-and-trade), Thomas and the draft pick for Bryant. How do the Lakers market that team in Hollywood? Switch the pieces any way you like and you have the same dilemma.
ESPN.com speculated about a possible three-way trade scenario in which Bryant would go to Chicago, Gilbert Arenas, Etan Thomas and the Bulls' No. 9 picks would wind up Los Angeles, while the Washington Wizards would get Ben Gordon, Tyrus Thomas and P.J. Brown. So that leaves the Bulls with a lineup of Hinrich, Bryant, Deng, Ben Wallace and whom at power forward? Is that team much better than the team he has in Los Angeles? Maybe, since the East is so awful, but again, trading Bryant is close to impossible.
I will argue until I'm hoarse that Bryant is the best individual talent in the game. If I had to pick one NBA player to win a one-on-one tournament, Bryant is my guy. But he is not endearing himself to anyone with this latest off-court spectacle.
Okay, I get it that he would like to moved. I would just like for him to understand the Lakers won't and can't move him. More important, I would really like to move on from this story.
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