No News But Plenty Of Opinions

 —  May 5, 2005

What was interesting about Laker owner Dr. Jerry Buss’ “state of the team” press event yesterday was not what he said — there was nothing new in his comments — but rather the reaction of the local media to this no news event.

In case you missed it, you can read about the event. But really, all Dr. Buss said was that he thinks this team can compete for a title again in two or three years, he wants to hire a new coach by the middle of this month and Phil Jackson is a candidate, Kobe doesn’t have a say in the choice, Mitch Kupchak is doing a fine job, and he doesn’t regret trading Shaq because Shaq was overweight and not motivated while in LA.

I think this press event can be summed by the words of Officer Barbrady, “Nothing to see here, move along.”

But open the newspaper this morning and apparently Buss has no idea how to run a franchise. Usually I don’t like to spend space on this blog criticizing local media because: 1) The beat guys by and large do a good job and the columnists are supposed to be personalities that sell papers by grabbing your attention; 2) I’ve got better things to do with my time than reading Plaschke and correcting his mistakes.

Today, however, I’ll make an exception. The winner of the “I know better than the guy with eight championship trophies behind him” award goes to Doug Krikorian in the Long Beach Press Telegram.

The only good thing Mitch Kupchak has done since Jerry West departed the organization is, apparently, make a good impression on Buss and make a million bucks a year for himself. Kupchak hasn’t made one deal worth even mentioning here, except the Shaquille O’Neal disaster with Miami.

My biggest problem with the columnists in Los Angeles’ papers is that they have no sense of what they wrote before, they care only about what they are feeling right now. (Same with radio talk show hosts, and Krikorian counts as both.) Back on July 11, 2003, just five days before the official signing of Karl Malone and Gary Payton as Lakers, Krikorian wrote a column that the headline summed up well, “Laker’s Kupchak On Quite A Roll.” Krikorian wrote a number of columns around that time saying Mitch had done well, and while that Laker team did not win a title the blame for that does not fall on Kupchak — he assembled a team that could and should have won it. And that’s just one instance, it isn’t that hard to find other times Krikorian praised Kupchak in print. The fact of the matter is Kupchak has been both good and bad, but perspective and history didn’t mesh with what Krikorian wanted to write.

Krikorian goes on and on, talking about how Jackson isn’t the answer to winning instantly (even though Buss essentially said as much, saying the team was a few years away) but in Krikorian’s world what is happening right now is all that matters. There can be no plan for the future — if they can’t win it all next season he has no use for them.

For the Times J.A. Adande, all this Jackson talk was getting in the way of a column bashing Buss for trading Shaq.


As long as Jackson’s name is in the mix — or better yet, he’s on the sidelines — the Lakers can avoid discussion of the ill-advised trade and the calamitous season that followed.

On Monday ESPN.com’s Scoop Jackson was on an internet radio show dedicated to sports blogs last week, Sports Bloggers Live. His interview is worth listening to (so is the interview at 15 minutes in with Knickerblogger).

Scoop talks about how Shaq makes hypocrites out of sports writers — columnists nationwide jumped all over Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady earlier this year because they took games off, but Shaq took two years off in Los Angeles and nobody said anything. The reason, Scoop said, is the media loves Shaq because he’s quotable and he’s fun to be around (he did dine with some media members while on the road with the Lakers). Shaq gets a free pass, Scoop admits.

Again, it takes time for to judge big moves. The 2007-08 season is when I think we’ll know how the Shaq trade turned out. If Shaq is still playing and a dominant force for a Miami team that is a championship contender, while the Lakers limp along, then it will have been a huge miscalculation. But if Shaq is gone while the Lakers have rebuilt into a contender, Adande, Simmers and Krikorian will be writing columns about Buss’ brilliant foresight.

That’s what they’ll be feeling at that moment.

Here’s a thought for the day: Buss is a poker player, do you really think he laid all his cards on the table with the media?