Heroes vs. Villains: Lakers Edition

Jeff Skibiski —  August 2, 2010

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“I just got one more than Shaq! You can take that to the bank…You guys know how I am. I don’t forget anything.”

Fighting words from Kobe Bryant, shortly after being crowned an NBA champion for the fifth time in his career. The Finals Most Valuable Player was mostly being facetious, but Kobe’s candor in that moment was also one of the more honest statements in his illustrious career.

Regardless of what any athlete tells you—no matter how good a player they are or what sport they play in—some teams, some players and some rivalries simply mean more. Players are humans and when people get burned, they remember how it feels. The past decade has been filled with several renditions of Heroes vs. Villains for the Lakers. From cow towns, dirty diapers, Raja who’s, errant Ginobili elbows, wheel chairs, “Kobe Stoppers” and more, the Lake Show have racked up a long list of quality rivals in the last 10 years en route to five NBA titles. Forum Blue and Gold dissects these local enemies to try and understand why they still inspire bad blood to this very day.

How Could You Leave Me?

If there is one name that divides Lakers fans quicker than the San Andreas Fault, it is Shaquille O’Neal. The future Hall-of-Famer’s less than gracious departure from Los Angeles still leaves a dirty taste in many Lakers fans’ mouths more than five years later. That Diesel won a title with the Miami Heat and publicly anointed Dwayne Wade the best player he had ever played with merely added fuel to the growing fire. A potential signing with the hated Celtics would keep the embers burning for years. Love him or hate him, the center’s unfulfilled destiny with the team and off-the-court bravado will likely forever split fans of the Lake Show.

You Messed with the Wrong Guy

Ruben Patterson was one of the Lakers’ early rivals after declaring himself, “The Kobe Stopper.” Like other players who have made similar claims, the former Laker quickly—and emphatically— learned that there is no such thing.

Doug Christie epitomized the upstart Sacramento Kings at the beginning of the decade with his feisty play and outspoken nature. His numerous verbal and physical altercations with the Lakers set the tone for one the league’s great, albeit short-lived rivalries.

Lakers fans will always remember Brad Miller for his near death experience when the Lakers played the Bulls in a heated game in Chicago. After jostling with Shaq, Miller barely escaped the center’s outstretched arm and giant hands as the pair careened toward the sidelines. O’Neal was still suspended and Miller will always be remembered as a villain.

As if there wasn’t enough existing animosity toward former Phoenix Sun Raja Bell, he proved himself a villain once and for all this past offseason by shunning Kobe’s personal invitation to join the team, instead opting to sign for more money with the less competitive Utah Jazz. Decisions like that—along with his memorable close line on Bryant—have solidified Bell’s place as a great Lakers rival.
Newly signed Matt Barnes engaged Lamar Odom and Kobe Bryant in public sparring match last season following a contentious game in Orlando. Things quickly escalated via Twitter when Barnes posted a comment that alluded to shoving his child’s dirty diaper in Odom’s mouth. The Lakers will look for the UCLA alum to provide the same kind of spark next season, only this time directed toward a common opponent.

Ron Artest also makes this list, but I would place him in a different class of rival than Barnes or Bell as his stature elevated him to a player that was still respected by Kobe and the Lakers brass even as he viciously battled them on the court. His play in Game 7 of last season’s Finals forever changed his image in Lakerdom, though.

If Only You Hadn’t Been There

Based on sheer NBA titles alone, the San Antonio Spurs represented the Lakers chief rival during the past 10 years. While the Tim Duncan-led squads didn’t have the flash of Hollywood, they certainly had the elbows of Manu Ginobili—many of which frequently found the faces of Lakers players. Coupled with Bruce Bowen’s questionable defensive tactics, countless playoff battles and you have all the makings of a great rivalry.

After three consecutive championships from 2000-2002, the Detroit Pistons manhandling of the 2003-04 Lakers sent shock waves throughout the nation. Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Wallace and Co. never threw fists, but their thorough and convincing five-game beat down of that injury-worn L.A. team ended one of the greatest runs in league history. Short of reverse inception, it will probably always be hard for Lakers fans to ever really remove that from the memory bank when so much was on the line, both from a historical standpoint and in that franchise-changing offseason.

The run-and-gun Suns from the middle of the decade offered the Lakers several nemeses, beginning with the pesty Steve Nash and his often over-dramatic on-court antics. Tim Thomas’ series-saving three-pointer in Game 6 of the 2005-06 playoffs almost single-handedly helped the Suns stave off what would have been a monumental upset. At the time, that shot not only propelled the Suns to take the series in Game 7, but also put an end to the misguided hope that Kobe and a ragtag team could actually compete for the NBA crown.

My Blood is Still Boiling

While Doug Christie helped set the tone, the entire unit of Kings players from 2000-2004 provided some of the Lakers’ most memorable and lasting rivals of the past decade. From Chris Webber’s smirk, Phil Jackson’s “cow town” comment, Arco Arena’s fervor, Vlade Divac’s “lucky shot” remark after Horry’s legendary game-winner to Mike Bibby’s sense of entitlement, Sacramento took the Lakers to their limits and the league was better for it.

The Celtics would make this list based on history alone, but the new generation of Lakers vs. Celtics officially came into its own during the 2010 NBA Finals. The storied rivalry of Magic vs. Bird will forever live in NBA lore, but Kobe, Gasol and the rest of the back-to-back champion Lakers against Boston’s “Big Three” have added a spicy new chapter to the history books. After the past three seasons and one crushing defeat in the 2008 Finals, it is hard to remember that Lakers fans once cheered for local star Paul Pierce and begged for a Kevin Garnett trade in the post-Shaq years. Like many of the Kings, the current Celtics are players who still make the blood boil and probably always will.

The Tension is Beginning to Rise…

LeBron James is public enemy number one in Cleveland and a rival for every other NBA team, including the Lakers. “The King’s” unwavering confidence and continued threat to Kobe’s title quest easily makes him the most prominent villain moving forward.

Jeff Skibiski

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57 responses to Heroes vs. Villains: Lakers Edition

  1. A good read, though I stumbled at the outset over claims Kobe could be “mostly facetious” while at the same time displaying candor and giving “one of the more honest statements in his illustrious career.” Those statements are absolutely contradictory.

    Better to suggest Kobe was being “somewhat facetious” in his remarks about beating Boston.

  2. #1 Chris,

    if you watch the video from Kobe’s post-game presser, I think he did come across as facetious, while also being honest. That was the beauty of that particular statement for me; on one hand, Bryant comes across as a child throwing his accomplishment in his rival’s face. On the other, he was being 100% honest. As a player who is notorious for a lack of transparency, it did represent one of the most honest statements of his career for me.

  3. Good post, but I have to say as a realist and a man with a family. A player courted by LA, yet taking more money to play for another team doesnt make me have more hatred towards them. My animosity towards players who have either left the team or squared off against, was mainly a personality beef. How could you be mad at someone for competing and trying to win? If all is on the up and up, you cant be mad at your opponent because they took your best shot and countered with a knockout left. You just have to dust yourself off and get at them the next time. No pulling a Lebron and not shaking hands, be man enough to give credit where credits due.

    To make a long story short there are really no true rival players in the NBA today because of free agency. The one guy you hate( Artest, Barnes) could be sitting on the bench the following year. I didnt hate Ron when he played against LA, because he left everything on the floor when the horn blew. After he signed you could tell those who did have hate, because they where blinded by hate and couldnt see his potential as a lock down defender and bringing that toughness that a championship team needs in the trenches.

  4. “After three consecutive championships, the Detroit Pistons manhandling of the 2003-04 Lakers sent shock waves throughout the nation.”…

    The Spurs won the year before, not the Lakers.

  5. Darius,
    From the previous thread:
    “I really don’t understand the disdain for Shaq”

    Ask Kobe, that!!

    How do you feel as a manager, co-worker, or customer of someone who provides good service, but is ungracious about it, and could (with just a little more effort) provide exceptional service?

  6. #4 Yusef,

    Thanks – updated the post to make that point a little more clear.

  7. exhelodrvr,
    I understand feelings of anger or frustration if you’re a former teammate or member of an organization that was badmouthed. But from a fans perspective, it’s more puzzling to me. As fans we rooted for Shaq and he helped the team we support win multiple championships. He departed in a way that caused anymosity at the time, but that was years ago and the Lakers are a great team again. Booing him now or being pissed about a potential signing with Boston seems petty to me. Sure, he could have worked harder. But he was quite excellent during his stint with the Lakers. I don’t long for what could have been, I celebrate the achievements that he contributed to.

  8. For me, No Villain(s) will ever be on the level of The Celtics (Bird/Mchale/Parrish/Ainge/Johnson)

  9. If Shaq was still with the Lakers, then they would have won more Championships – at least two more, I think.

  10. Darius,
    Ruminating over the “what could have beens” is as much a part of being a fan, for most people at least, as celebrating the successes.

  11. (5, 9, Exhelodrvr) For me, in the grand scheme of things, it’s all a wash re: Shaq. All my vitriol towards Shaq for all the crap he’s represented is subsumed by his amazing contributions during the 3 championships. So if you ask me about Shaq, I can neither admit nor deny any hate/love for him.

    As a NBA fan, I am dismayed by all the “I heart you” sentiments between players today. We don’t need players to despise each other, but all this camaraderie-ization between players is not cute or admirable. It takes away from the competition that I used to love in the NBA. Well, thank God for the cHEAT. Now, everyone is a rival against at least one team.

  12. This just in: Ron Artest is still awesome.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=5417748

    This guy a villain?

  13. #9. exhelodrvr,
    I understand that point. But at the same time, I think that line of thought is more prevalent in those that have never won/came up short. Maybe for the fans of Barkley’s Suns, Drexler’s Blazers, Ewing’s Knics, Reggie’s Pacers, or Stockton/Malone’s Jazz. But for the Lakers fans that experienced a three-peat and are now back on top after winning 2 more titles back to back, I think focusing too much on what could have been is a tad…strange (for lack of a better word). Believe me, I understand the want for more but at the same time, it didn’t work out that way. To me, like I said in my post in the last thread, reaching those highest of highs softens the blow of hitting those lows. The Lakers won plenty and while there can never be enough winning, I also feel that when you do win it also means that you don’t really have to have a lot of regrets because you didn’t *always win*. (If that makes sense.)

  14. Darius,
    Yes, that makes sense; certainly it’s worse for fans of Cleveland, et al. I think the frustration is not so much from losing as from not winning when there clearly was unexpended effort.

  15. I’m sorry to get off topic, but in case some won’t read the Artest interview, you’d miss quotes like this one:

    NOW THAT YOU’VE WON A TITLE, DO YOU STILL HAVE ANY PERSONAL GOALS IN THE NBA?
    I would love to get back to first-team All-Defense. I own defense. It’s like my corporation. I’m the CEO and everyone else is just an employee. The fans and players know I belong. When you need a stop, who you going to call? Not the goddamn Ghostbusters, I’ll tell you that. You call me.

  16. I respect Shaq for his accomplishments and appreciate his contributions to the three championships for my most beloved sports team. I despise Shaq for his lack of respect and professionalism in how he treated the franchise and city I love so much after he departed.

    I am indifferent about his number being retired regardless of what he does from here on out. If his is retired, I will clap politely and acknowledge his contributions. If his number isn’t retired, I would just shrug and I would NOT derive any huge satisfaction from the snub.

    I acknowledge his part in Laker lore but he doesn’t hold a strong place in my fan heart. When Worthy’s number was retired, I got goosebumps from the memories of his contributions and I was emotionally charged up and yelling.

    I wouldn’t boo Shaq at his ceremony but I also won’t have the heartfelt joy I felt with someone like Worthy.

  17. Damn you Jeff, I seriously worked to push that Tim Thomas three to the deep depths of my memory bank. If that doesn’t fall, the Lakers get the Clippers in the second round and a great chance to go to the WCFs. Even the biggest of Kobe detractors would have to admit he accomplished something truly special that season and they don’t have that huge Game 7 loss as fuel to their collective fires. Oh well though. Great post as always.

  18. Darius,
    I think I can help explain the anger we have for Shaq. He should have been the greatest basketball player of all time. If he just worked 25% as hard as Kobe!! Here we had one guy who had all the physical gifts and he didn’t care to work on his game or his body. And then we had this young kid with the same gifts but was always working and working and working. Look at Shaq’s body his rookie year and then compare it to when he was 30 years old in that last three-peat. Its a travesty. Shaq will go down as the guy who got the least from the most. He would get serious foot surgery right before the season started, he would not only bad mouth his organization but the young stud guard he had that was the main reason he went from zero championships to 3. The guy was a 7 foot PG with the body of a tank. His agility was unmatched. And you could argue that if it wasn’t for two of the top 3 SG’s of all time he would never have won a single championship ring. The one ring he won without Kobe he spent the majority of the 4th quarters of the Finals on the bench watching Mourning defeat the Mavs as Riley said he felt Shaq was too great of a defensive liability. We hate Shaq because we felt we could have won more. And we could have watched the greatest Center of all time in the prime of his career. We were cheated… every basketball fan was cheated. We couldn’t get to see Penny or Grant Hill dominate… but only because of injuries… Shaq just took a lottery ticket and flushed most of the money away on booze and women. Having said that…. he was still the 5th best Center to ever play the game ;)

  19. #12: Thanks for the link. Awesome article. I love the “Jordan would’ve busted my ass” thing at the end.

    Ron-Ron is the man.

  20. I really don’t care if Shaq goes to Boston. At this point in his career he is a journeyman. And that is a shame for a player of his stature. There is no doubt Shaq should have played out his career in LA. It should not have ended the way it did, but it’s spilled milk at this point.

    With the money Kobe and Shaq would have been paid (once Kobe re-signed) the Lakers would have been Kobe, Shaq, and a bunch of cheap JV players. With teams like Dallas and San Antonio in the West the Lakers title days in this era would have likely been over. In a wierd, crazy, cosmic sort of way Shaq’s departure was a godsend for the Lakers. It set off a dominoe of events that led them to where they are today.

    And no matter what we think about Shaq the man still deserves his due. Staples Center is the house the Shaq built. There is no denying that.

  21. I don’t think the title of this post is quite correct. It’s quite obvious that this is not really a Laker’s edition but more or less Kobe’s edition.

    Now how the two differ, at least for this incarnation of the Lakers, I am not sure.

    I would probably add Ray Allen there somewhere, because really, I think he really gets under Kobe’s skin.

    Anyway, other than that, not much I’d really dispute, although I think a post about the players we loved to hate would be quite intriguing too.

    Kwame, Smush, Shaq, Walton, Odom, Fisher, Farmar, Kobe…

    Maybe we could really compile a top 10 list of current and former lakers that divided the fanbase. Probably starts with Shaq…

  22. Shaq and Kobe were two gigantic egos who both wanted to be #1 on the team. Shaq didn’t really work at his craft like we feel super-talents should be working. Kobe was not going to resign with the Lakers if Shaq was retained. By 2004 the split was a forgone conclusion. If there was any mending to be made it had to have been made years earlier.

    T. Rogers – while you are right to state that the Laker’s could no longer retain both talents and maintain any type of a team around them, they could no longer sail in the same boat together.

  23. Shaq may not be a “villain” to me, but I have lost any respect I once had for him. I still remember vividly how he refused to get in shape when the organization asked him to, then proceeded to drop 30 pounds the very summer he was traded to the Heat. Why couldn’t he have just put in the effort everyone, including Kobe, the fans and the owners, asked of him?

    Anyways, Shaq’s career is currently in such a pathetic state that I just shake my head sometimes. How does a player of Shaq’s stature end up winding out his career as a journeyman – or as one ESPN article puts it, a “mercenary for hire?”

    I bet Shaq now regrets burning his bridges with the Heat. Or maybe not.

  24. AAHH! I’m with you Phillip…. That Tim Thomas 3 absolutely destroyed me. I really think that Kobe’s peak was his 05-06 season. If he was able to make a deep push that year, it would have moved him up a couple ranks in the GOAT list.

    My worst enemies as a Laker fan: (not in order)

    Bruce Bowen
    Paul PIerce
    Raja Bell
    Shaq (couldn’t stand him in those heat years. since Pheonix, he’s been obsolete.)
    Tim Duncan
    Kevin Garnett
    Karl Malone
    Manu Ginobili (hated his flop that got Kobe suspended)
    Tony Parker (is it just me or is he like Timmy D’s mini-me?)
    Mike Bibby (the original mini-me)
    JR Smith (I’d love to see him [as a player] in FB&G but his personality reeks for the opposing team)
    And….

    Ben Wallace!… for starting “the brawl at the palace” and not getting half the blame that Artest got for it. Also, I hate that people called that sorry mess on his head an afro.

    I’ve always been an Artest fan, except for the few winking moments he put his mug within kissing distance from Kobe’s face in the 09 playoffs. I have to imagine Kobe’s a pretty frustrating person to play against but it still was one of the only moments I was not sad to see Artest faulter. As a matter of fact, I was ready for a Artest/ J. O’neal trade back in 02-03 to dump the fueding/ aging Shaq to give the Lakers a more future bound core group. Luckily, I think we ended up better off without J. O’neal’s injury proned future and rebuilding from ground up instead of trying to build pieces around a Kobe, Artest, O’neal core. Plus, who knows if Artest’s personality could have handled Kobe 6-7 years ago.

  25. ESPN reports that PJ finally signed a contract with the Lakers. Whew :)

    I know assumptions and stuff matters little, but let’s say Shaq was motivated enough so that Kobe really couldn’t fault him.

    Do you think they wouldn’t have clashed if that was the case?

    I tend to think Shaq not pushing himself is something that concerned the FO more than Kobe. I don’t think Kobe is the type of a player who wouldn’t challenge the #1 on the team just because he works as hard as he does.

  26. I actually think Kobe’s played Bowen a lot better than people think. In my mind, Ray Allen and Vince Carter were routinely frustrated by Scissorhands, while Kobe almost always busted Bowen. It speaks volumes to Timmy D’s class that despite being the only other Western Conference team to win the title this decade we haven’t added him to our Villains list.

  27. for the life of me I can’t see how any laker could dislike shaq. this is coming from the biggest kobe fan around. as laker fans we got to watch the legitimate 1st and 2nd best players in the league and two top ten of all time talents play on our team. does anyone remember how unfair everyone thought it was? kobe ranks higher than shaq because of his personality. kobe = winner pure and simple. but there is no doubt that shaq was the most dominant player to ever play the game, and this includes mj. shaq missed out on being the goat because of his personality, but that doesn’t take away from his on court accomplishments and pure dominance. sometimes people earn forgiveness. shaq earned it with the 3peet.

  28. The more time passes, the more people will forget how Shaq left. Championships are championships and the Laker fans value rings more than anything. At the end of the day, time will heal wounds and people will love Shaq for the titles he brought.

  29. Any article about Laker Villains begins and ends with …..

    …Bill Laimbeer.

    Atleast the Celtics were respected by the Lakers (and vice versa). Bill Laimbeer was just a rich kid from Palos Verdes and bullied people around.

    …and he was a Sleestack in Land of the Lost.

  30. It finally donned on me, the title of this Post and the hatred or liking of Shaq… I will always remember the three Championships that he brought to the Los Angeles Lakers, which I do not believe we would have gotten without him. I want to just remember the Championships. I also vividly remember the day that Jerry West announced that the Lakers had signed Shaq O’Neil, and everybody in the city was grateful and happy. I will always hate the Celtics, and whoever is currently on them, though. The Celtics suck.

  31. I would put KG as one of the most hated laker villain specifically with his gorilla style- chest thumping and dog barking taunts! On an off topic, is it really true that the Lakers are trying to dump Sasha for D. West? Well I would hope that is not true. We will be trading a “clutch” player for a player who I would say have questionable attitude ( rumors about LBJ’s mom and the guns issue). I mean kobe himself has stated that aside from himself and D. Fisher the next guy he would trust to shoot the ball on crunch time would be Sasha. I have watched the replay of the game 7 Western Conference finals between the Lakers vs Blazers and during the last 30 seconds of that game I saw the likes of Kobe and Horry miss Freethrows. And during that game the lakers were leading by 4 points against the blazers. This guy Sasha has ice on his veins as evidenced by his Free Throws during game 7 of the nba finals against the hated Celtics. Just imagine the huge pressure of taking FT’s in a game 7 of the WCF against the blazers and a game 7 of the NBA FINALS against the rival Celtics! I for one would be against the trading of Sasha as the saying goes “why fix something that is not broken”

  32. You are right, Craig. Their relationship was beyod repair at that point. It was clear at the start of the 2003-2004 season that (one way or another) the end of the Kobe/Shaq era was upon us. Kobe normally took Shaq’s verbal media jabs in stride. When he finally let lose in that radio interview during training camp I knew it was over.

  33. Spartacus,
    Laker fans seem to need to have one player on the team they can ‘bang’ on. With Adam Morrison in street clothes and Luke Walton injured, they naturally gravitated to Sasha. Sasha does have skills that the Lakers need, but he also has a contract that pays more than his skills are worth and he was best in his contract year – surprise, surprise! Therefore, he qualifies as the pincushion of the month – until we restart our Luke Walton redoubt again.

  34. T. Rogers,
    We spent years on this blog discussing the Kobe-Shaq conundrum. I contend Shaq sort of shut out Kobe from the beginning when Kobe didn’t participate in the ‘hazing’ of rookies and just kept to himself and worked on his game. However, things really took off when Phil Jackson arrived and determined that his huge superstar had an ‘eggshell’ hide and couldn’t take criticism, but his up-and-coming superstar was tough as nails and didn’t really care what anyone thought. With that in mind, he decided to pick on the 2nd banana to get points across to Shaq – further separating Shaq and Kobe and alienating his own relationship with Kobe. This may be the reason we were able to win three rings, but was also key to why these two were never going to get along.

  35. Kobe and Shaq were destined to clash because of their polar opposite personalities. Kobe had success early on but still wanted more. Shaq achieved success and wanted to take his foot off the gas. We know how that ended.

    You know who’s acting career is similar to Kobe’s basketball career?

    Well let me give you some support before I tell you. Kobe experienced great teams before he ever hit his apex. He played with all stars and the most dominant big man of his decade. Kobe earned so much a little too fast and didn’t recognize the strength and cohesiveness of his team.

    After Shaq left Kobe was greeted with a stripped down pu pu platter team with Kwame being one of the better entrees. Life completely sucked. He went into a tail spin and realized the strength in a supporting cast and found redemption.

    Now back to the actor.

    The actor I’m thinking of is Robert Downey Jr. He was great, and surrounded by other actors and decent scripts, but still developing until he peaked with an Oscar for “Chaplin” in 92′ and then got into drugs from 96′-01.

    Years after sobering up, he’s finally back on top and producing big hit after big hit. He’s found his stride and has been surrounded by great actors and better yet, great scripts.

    Yes we all develop, some more than others, and some slower than others.

    Let’s appreciate that our current hero, Kobe has finally gotten to where we’ve wanted him to be after all these years.

  36. Sorry that should say Oscar nomination for best actor in 92′.

  37. Spartacus- “why fix something that is not broken”

    07-08’s nickname for Sasha Vujacic- “The Machine”

    09-10’s nickname for Sasha Vujacic- “The Broken Machine”

    So, I think that “broke” saying doesn’t really work that well in this situation. Yes, he sank some freethrows that some of our former and current stars may have failed to do. Although, that doesn’t excuse him being a shooter/ pesky defender that had a 1 3/4 season shooting drought and constantly making bad decisions on the defensive end. (fouling 50ft away from the basket and such.)

    Although West is not Mr. Perfect on the market right now, his talent and future seem worth it as long as he can keep the slate clean from this point on. On a game to game basis, this guy can produce alot off the bench for our team and he has the talent to fill in as a starter if Kobe has to miss some games in the season. If we could perform the trade while having a guy (Brown) to fill in for West if he has to spend a portion of the season suspended or on house arrest, I’d do the trade in an instant. I’d just not want to rely on Barnes and Blake to back up Kobe all the time if we lose Sasha and replace him with an inacitve D. West.

  38. Delonte West suffers from bipolar disorder. Whatever else happens, he is probably not going to be the most consistent player on the team. If he comes here we have to accept this and not constantly insist that he ‘fix’ himself. We accept Lamar, and his inconsistency is based on his personality. Delonte can do everything right and he still will have some off days.

  39. RE Delonte West: From my understanding the Lakers were looking to acquire him in order to do what Minnesota just did – waive him. His contract was guaranteed only to 500K for next season and thus would be a prime player to acquire and waive if looking to cut costs. If the deal that Windhorst stated was actually offered (Sasha + 1st rounder for West) was actually real, my assumption was that the Lakers were looking to get out of Sasha’s contract, waive West, and then likely offer some of that money to Brown in an attempt to re-sign him (or help off-set the cost of adding Blake, Barnes, and Ratliff). Understand that the Lakers are already at (or right near) last year’s payroll for this next season without signing Brown or the two rookies. If the Lakers were able to trade Sasha for an ungauranteed contract or for a trade exception, they would free up some payroll that would give them the flexibility to make another signing or not pay as much in luxury taxes next year. Essentially, what I’m saying is, the concept of West as a player that makes the team may not be one to get used to – he was, essentially, cap space.

  40. Not to delve into speculation re; West on a post devoted to “villains,” but he is a good player wrapped around a ton of “baggage.” The stakes are too high to gamble on someone like him right now, especially in the midst of continuity and a three-peat opportunity. I think we’ve already fulfilled our “super-nova” quota (player who can explode emotionally in either a good/bad way) with Artest and Barnes. Also, isn’t the man under house arrest for the first half of the season? When will he ever learn the triangle, via satellite feed?

    I tend to agree with Darius. West would have simply been a salary cap move, nothing more, nothing less.

  41. If Sacto and Detroit made the list, then where are the Jail Blazers?

    And in particular, Rasheed, who regularly destroyed us while with that team, then actually beat us in Detroit.

    It is interesting that the greatest rivalry should be the Spurs, but they are such a class organization, and generally play such beautiful team oriented ball that I have a hard time working up any real animosity towards them.

  42. Sorry for the double-post, but what are people’s thoughts about Charlie Rosen’s article re: Kobe’s mortality?

    http://msn.foxsports.com/nba/story/Los-Angeles-Lakers-Kobe-Bryant-may-not-stay-great-much-longer

    I hate to think about things like this, but Kobe is after all, just a man.

  43. 43) DY,
    I agree with the thrust of the article. Kobe clearly does not have the athleticism he used to have. He is smarter, and more skilled, though, so his overall level of play has not slipped. I think it will gradually decline over the next several years; it (hopefully) will not be especially noticeable in the success of the team, if other players are improving, but watch Kobe’s minutes decrease somewhat, and him continue to “pick his spots” more and more.

  44. Question:

    Let’s assume for a moment that the Lakers resign Shannon Brown. Since Delonte West was waived, does it make sense to add him to the team at the expense of a rookie contract?

    I think this is good security in the event Sasha is moved during the season or Kobe/Fish get injured.

    **I hope this is not speculation per the forum guidelines**

  45. lakers rockets october 26 opening night

  46. My understanding of the cap rules are that they are calculated at the end of the season. If that is so, then signing Shannon with the intent of trading either Sasha or Shannon in the middle of the year would seem to be a financially reasonable decision. Of course I would rather trade Sasha first, and have the financial house in order before signing Shannon, but that may not be possible.

  47. The scariest possibility of Rosen’s article is the thought that he spoke to PJ before writing it.

    On one hand, this is just the start of the annual Kobe-is-in-decline story line season, which started after ’08. On the other hand, one of these years it will be noticeable (and he won’t have the injuries to explain the drop), and it very may well be this year.

    And, I am less enthused than I used to be about Kobe’s decline after he was unable to adjust to the injuries last year. Previously, I felt quite confident that he would adjust his game as he ages, and find many different ways to be effective. Now, I’m not so sure. He should have facilitated more, shot less, tried harder to do those other things when his finger and knee were bothering him late last year, yet was unable to do that. I’m not saying he can’t, or won’t in the coming years, just that I’m less confident that he will than I was.

  48. Charlie Rosen makes some cogent points, but, being Charlie Rosen, his opinions come with measurable baggage.

    He comes at this thing like John Hollinger and seems to be just quoting statistics – apparently strengthening his ‘facts only’ argument. However, which statistics are presented makes all the difference in the world when making your case. Both Michael and Kobe have played 15 years of professional basketball. As far as years in the league, Kobe is now on his own when being compared with Michael. Michael also had some years off, and that may have prolonged the beating his body took, but Kobe didn’t start in his first two years, as mentioned in the article.

    Charlie Rosen is clearly a big fan of Phil Jackson in particular, and the Chicago Bulls in general – not their management. You have to read his pieces with this slant in mind.

  49. KnickerBlogger has some hysterical anti-LeBron T-shirts that show his face — shaded red and blue in the recent Obama-style (itself a knock-off of the drawings of the old communist leaders) — along with phrases or words like “Beta Dog” and “Sidekick.” Very amusing.

    http://knickerblogger.spreadshirt.com/

  50. Craig W.,
    That comment got through the moderation somehow. I’ve deleted it and your comment about it. We should be good to go at this point.

  51. 43

    I thought it was a terrible article.

    For starters, he ends it by suggesting Kobe will fail to ‘equal MJ’s longevity’ when in fact Kobe has played more playoff minutes, and will almost certainly surpass MJ’s regular season minutes sometime in 2011/12.

    Secondly, he almost completely ignores the fact that Kobe had played 4 years in the NBA by the time he was 21, which is the age at which Jordan entered the league. Are we supposed to believe that Kobe’s likely inability to average over 20 ppg at age 40 will be down to his penchant for breaking the triangle 15 YEARS AGO, as opposed to the fact that he’ll be in his 23rd year in the NBA?

    Beyond that, the idea that a player who has played 14 seasons and over 40,000 minutes of NBA basketball, while playing as hard as Kobe has and shouldering such a heavy load at both ends of the court, ‘won’t be great forever’ is hardly breaking news.

    Rosen tends to alternate insightful columns with pointless and/or erroneous ones, and this one falls into the latter category. It was nothing more than another excuse to drag out the rotting corpse of his favourite dead horse – Kobe’s resistance to the triangle all those years ago – and beat it to a pulp yet again.

  52. DY,

    I remember being a pimple-faced teenager working the concession stand at the Pyramid back in the summer of 1996. That was when they had the Fila Summer pro league at CSULB. Those games where great for hoops junkies like me. My buddies and I got to pretend like we were working while watching some pretty decent basketball all day long.

    Those games rarely drew the biggest crowds. It was usually just basketball junkies and scouts. However, one Sunday afternoon game was the rare exception. The parking lot was filled to capacity and stands inside the arena were buzzing. I saw 17 year old Kobe Bryant play in a Lakers uniform for the first time that day. He had that place rocking! Granted, he didn’t have the greatest game. But his hustle and drive was apparent to everyone in the building. We KNEW this kid had all the tools to be great.

    Fast forward and I feel like I grew up watching him play. The prospect of NBA basketball without Kobe Bryant is unthinkable to me. But I also thought Magic’s retirement in 1991 would be fatal to my love of the game as well. Thankfully, both Magic and my love for the game are still going strong.

    Let’s enjoy every game we have left of Kobe. Even the greats have to hang up sometime. I always read comments on different sites where fans are sure Kobe will play until he closes in on 40. Honestly, I don’t see it. When his current contract with the Lakers expires (2014) Kobe should call it a career. I would never want to see a 39 year old Kobe laboring up and down the floor at a fraction of his former glory. No way.

  53. Brad Miller one does not make to sense it was so long ago against Shaq who Kobe probably has the most resentment against.

  54. No team or individual can possibly match the Celtics, throughout history, as Laker villains. I wasn’t around in the 60s, but look at the crushing losses, time after time. And then the 80s… how about Cedric Maxwell, and ML Carr? Ainge? McHale and the clothesline?

    The Bad Boy Pistons also are right in there, especially Laimbeer and Mahorn.

    As for Shaq, there’s no way those 3 championships happen without him. But I never really liked him overall, and he only gets less likable as he ages. How many teams has he played for? That reveals his flaws more than anything.

  55. An L.A. take that says Angelenos still love the Diesel, but I know that sportstalk and letters to the editor, etc, show nothing but vitriol and hate? Your take? http://bit.ly/dhHQUC