Looking Past The Distractions

Kurt —  October 16, 2007

Man, this could be a long year for Lakers fans. Especially if Tuesday was any indication, where rumors about what was in Kobe’s locker became a mini-Chernobyl in Lakerland.

The question I have is can this Lakers team look past the ongoing media distraction and still succeed on the court?

Some teams rally around each other and become a force when they perceive that an outside force is attacking them (see the New England Patriots of 2007). Other teams simply become unglued in the heat of the media spotlight.

It’s clear that until the Lakers make a big move — sending Kobe out or bringing in talent to make this team a contender — that there will be a seemingly endless loop of ESPN.com roundtables, “Loose Cannons” more than living up to their moniker on talk radio, and much more. Every rumor — valid or not — is going to be handled with a Paris Hilton sense of perspective.

The question is can the Lakers be professional and not let it impact their play on the court? In a large part that falls on Kobe, who is too professional and too competitive to go Vince Carter on this team and not put out the effort, but he also must provide locker room leadership to minimize the distraction. Responsibility also falls to Phil Jackson, a veteran like Derek Fisher, and eventually on each player to do their part to keep a cohesive team.

Just like questions that will be easier to see on the court — like which center is earning playing time — the answer to this is something we will have to see play out. And unlike the things we can see more clearly with observation and statistics, we may never really get a full answer to the question of how much this impacts the team.

I can just hope the team — and we fans for that matter — can look past the soap opera distractions.

UPDATE: In case you haven’t seen it, Roland Lazenby offered his thoughts on this latest Laker drama in an email to Henry at True Hoop, comparing the Buss family to a Shakespearean drama, but reminding everyone Buss still knows how to play the game. He notes Phil tried to set up his pieces against the owner and front office as he did in Chicago, but Buss has played a lot more poker than those guys:

Phil had primed the pump this time by getting his pal Sam Smith at the Chicago Tribune to write a column saying Kobe ought to sit out the season. Jerry Buss could see the play coming. So the owner walked into training camp and knocked Kobe almost unconscious. We’ll trade your ass and put it on the table now, Jerry Buss told Kobe in so many words.

Phil was left gulping, Kobe speechless.

Phil has finally met his match in those juicy PR games that sell newspapers and books. Question is, do Phil/Kobe/Jeanie have another move? Or are they done, left slinking away sheepishly?

Phil wants another championship and he wants Jim Buss out of the way so that he can do it. It was Jim Buss, supposedly, who talked his father Jerry in firing Phil in 2004, so this thing has a history.

You have to read the whole thing. Thanks to Gatinho for the heads up.

UPDATE 2: Friend of this site Nate Jones has a great post up at Fanhouse titled “Staying Rational About Kobe.”

Kobe Bryant is too box office for the Lakers to move without some sort of fight. He’s not only valuable to Jerry Buss, but to AEG, the company that owns 30% of the Lakers and all of Staples Center. They’ve been able to completely develop downtown L.A. and a lot of these properties depend on the Lakers success. Buss knows this. Dude’s been doing this for too long to let the most box office player in the league go over unhappiness. Magic Johnson asked to be traded in the early 1980s, but Buss never let the guy go. He made things right.


A few other links to pass along in the easy in the dreaded bullet point format.

• Now this is just damn funny (aren’t most things involving Agent Zero).

• I’m a little late to this party but still wanted to mention it. Recently baseball stats demi-god Bill James weighed in on what is needed to “fix” other sports, including the NBA. His main problem with The Association — the best team always wins. See, in the summer-long 162 game baseball season the best teams do rise to the top, but then come the playoffs and it’s a crapshoot (see Rockies, Colorado). James thinks that a certain amount of unpredictability is great.

Personally, I’m with the guys at The Painted Area who said, “Isn’t the best team winning the point?” I like that about the NBA, or for that matter about the English Premiership. Across the pond there are no playoffs for the league title, just the winner of the season (there are plenty of tournaments, but all for separate trophies, none of which my lads from Newcastle ever win). I love the volatility of the NCAA Tournament as well, but for a pro league isn’t the point to have the best team as your champion? Read The Painted Area response, they go into depth and say it well.

• Interesting little note for those following UCLA basketball: Star freshman Kevin Love will be wearing number 42 (the same number he wore in high school). Yes, that number is retired and hanging in the rafters at Pauley Pavilion, but Walt Hazard gave his permission to Love to wear the number.