With the over-hyped Lakers/Heat game just five shopping days away (what do you mean Lakers/Heat, there are more than two players in this contest?), the number of mainstream media NBA writers becoming soap opera writers is about to reach record numbers. Donâ€™t blame them, they canâ€™t help themselves â€” theyâ€™ve been trained to go after the story, and this is a juicy story, even if its barely relevant to the Lakers future. For example, Mark Heisler couldnâ€™t write his NBA column about the questionable idea of the Lakers getting Jason Kidd without spending the first three quarters of the story rehashing the Kobeâ€™s past 12 months.
If you are a Laker fan and you have to listen to this all week, just repeat after me the Tripper Harrison chant: It just doesnâ€™t matter. It just doesnâ€™t matter. It just doesnâ€™t matter.
What matters to the future of the Lakers is not what happened in the locker room last season, but what is happening there this season. It doesnâ€™t matter what the Shaq/Phil/Malone triumvirate think, what matters is what the Odom/Butler/Rudy T. triumvirate thinks.
Kobe has been given his chance. What happened last season will have no impact on future players wanting to come here if the word of mouth among players (not talk radio speculation) is good and the team wins, or shows it can with a little help. The chance to play for a historic franchise in a major market, to play with one of the games greats, and to win a title will draw players, so long as the word-of-mouth passed along at summer pick-up games and Manhattan night clubs says Kobe is a good teammate and Los Angeles is a fun place to play.
If, three years from now, Caron Butler is playing in the northeast and Lamar Odom in the Midwest, both going on ESPN every chance they get to say Kobe ran them out of town, then Kobe will have blown it. If, three years from now, Rudy T. has written a book talking about how Kobe is uncoachable, then the future will be lost.
But right now this team is forging a new identity, and what matters is how that turns out. I donâ€™t want to say the last off-season was a joy or that everyone has behaved well â€” just about everyone involved, from Shaq to Kobeâ€™s wife, have been acting like 12 year olds â€” but what matters is what comes next, what comes now. What matters is where this Laker team is three years from now, and what it is doing today to get there.
Itâ€™s too early to write that story, so what weâ€™re going to get instead is a more soap opera. It just doesnâ€™t matter.