Monday, March 31, 2008

To Live and Die in L.A.

“If Kobe would have been smart, he would have mended those fences with Shaquille, let Shaquille be ‘The Man’ and we wouldn’t be in this position. Now, after four years later, he understands that he can’t do it by himself. Now he’s blaming the organization, and some of that blame should be on him and some on the organization.”
- Ervin Magic Johnson, October 2007

Last summer, Kobe Bryant was finished with the Lakers. He had publicly ripped on his teammates one last time, the same teammates who watched him throw-up 46 field goal attempts in a 48 minute game the year before. He had publicly ripped on management one last time, the same management who traded Shaq to appease Bryant so he wouldn’t have to stand in Shaq’s shadow anymore. He was ready to trade his Laker blue and gold jersey for the Bull’s red and white. Kobe was ready to go and the Lakers were helping him pack. Nothing could stop it, except for the Bull’s brilliant GM John Paxson.

Paxson had a secret weapon called Luol Deng. The Lakers wanted him as the main part of the trade but Paxson wouldn’t budge so he told L.A. to talk to the hand. In hindsight, how did that work out for you there, John? Now the Lakers are tied for first in the tough-as-nails West while Paxson’s Bulls trail the Celtics by a mere 27 games while playing down in the junior varsity Eastern Conference intramural league. Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak is now as giddy as a school girl at a Hannah Montana concert with this trade of omission and is more than willing to take any and all of Bryant’s tirades with a big “thank you sir, may I have another” attitude.

Of course the non-trade is not the only reason the Lakers are back on top. If the Lakers pull off a championship with this team, then Memphis Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace should get the first cooler of Gatorade poured over his clueless bean. He was the one responsible for delivering Pau Gasol, complete with a big red bow on his head, to Phil Jackson’s doorstep. Wallace was the one who pulled the trigger on the trade that Greg Popovich called “beyond comprehension”, which sent Gasol’s 19 points and 9 rebounds to L.A. for Kwame Brown’s 4 points and 5 rebounds. This would be similar to the Jazz trading Hot Rod Hundley for Lebron James.

Maybe it is just a coincidence that it was none other than Jerry West himself, the man who built the Lakers and then moved on to Memphis, who hired Chris Wallace as the Grizzlie’s GM just last June. While West is no longer with the Grizzlies (and who could blame him?) it is just a matter of time before he rejoins the Lakers and reunites with Gasol. West has denied any link to this trade, but in the history of the NBA has there ever been a more lopsided trade?

I have never been big into NBA conspiracy theories, but it brings to mind the Mike Myers character in So I Married an Axe Murderer where he plays the dad who thinks “there’s a secret society of the five wealthiest people in the world, known as the Pentavirate, who run everything in the world.” His theory includes “the Queen, the Vatican, the Gettys, the Rothschilds and Colonel Sanders”, who “meet tri-annually at a secret country mansion in Colorado, known as The Meadows”. After this trade, I have come up with my own NBA conspiracy theory fantasy team which runs everything in the NBA. This team includes David Stern, Jerry West, Michael Jordan, Bill Walton and then a Ouija board to help contact the ghost of Red Auerbach. They meet semi-annually at Oprah’s and order trades like this one, as well as the Kevin Garnett to Boston trade, which has helped the Lakers and Boston return to their glory years.

So thanks to forces beyond our control Kobe and his Lakers are back on top at the moment but if there is such a thing as karma I just hope that Kobe gets what he deserves. And if next year we see Dwight Howard or Chris Paul or Lebron playing for the Bulls then I will know my theory is not just a theory.

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