By Craig Kwasniewski
Now that I've calmed down a little and listened to portions of the Stephen A. Smith, Dan Patrick and the PMS (BTW - a very good interview, they even find the time to bash on Kobe's duet with Tyra Banks) interviews of Kobe Bryant, here's a few thoughts:
Kobe seems about 50-50 on wanting to be traded. To me it sounds like he's doing everything he can to make changes with the Lakers' roster. Given that he's locked up in long-term contract the only play he has left is to ask to be traded.
Right after the season, when Kobe went public with his demands for the Lakers to improve their talent, the front office countered by throwing out the injury card. They claimed that when healthy, the Lakers were an upper level team (not true). Jim Buss (Jerry's son who's in line to take control of the team) was even bold enough to state that the present roster is a minor deal from title contention. (Of course that "minor deal" is a Kevin Garnett acquisition along with Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James all retiring this summer.) The front office basically took the angle of "let Kobe rant out his anger and he'll eventually buy into the company plan."
But Kobe didn't want his demands to go unheard. He didn't believe that signing a point guard like Steve Blake would make this Laker team a contender. He needed the Lakers to understand that his demands are serious. Mix in a soon-to-be-available Jerry West and voila... Kobe has a nice solution right under his nose.
So over the weekend, Kobe asks that Jerry West come to the Lakers to save the team. Never mind that West left because he didn't get along with Phil Jackson or that he was uneasy with Jerry Buss handing the team over to his son Jim or that Jerry West had no intentions of replacing his former protégé and friend Mitch Kupchak, Kobe wanted The Logo. Oh did I mention that he's 69 years old? Not really the type of age for the day-to-day demands of running an NBA franchise.
Anyway, I like the idea of West coming in to save the day, I just can't see it happening. I think Kobe also understood how unrealistic it was and he played the only card he had left... fix this team or trade my ass!!!
After learning the hard way (Eagle, Colorado and the post-2004 Laker dismantling), Kobe's become very media savvy. He's portraying himself as the victim here so he's not coming off as a spoiled, bitter player (read: Vince Carter).
The big question out there... who's the "Laker insider" that, according to Kobe, placed the blame of Shaq's departure squarely on Kobe Bryant. I'm guessing it's either Jim Buss or his trusted Laker adviser Ronnie Lester.
The big picture is the impending power vacuum within the Laker franchise once Jerry Buss gives up the reigns. On one side you have Jim Buss and Ronnie Lester, nepotism and his trusty side kick, locking up against Mitch Kupchak, Phil Jackson and Jeanie Buss. Mix in the potential Jerry West wildcard and Kobe's discontent and you have a VERY interesting storyline all summer.