Friday, December 7, 2007

The Betrayal of Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant has been seen as an indecisive spoiled brat for his trade demands this summer and his changing that message. But an untold story, at least in my eyes, has been how the Lakers management baited him into signing and then switched their style. When Kobe Bryant became a free agent in the summer of 2004, he had the Lakers and the Clippers bidding for him. Up to that point, in his near-decade with the Lakers, the Lakers had always focused on getting top talent or at least experienced players. Kobe's teammates included Shaq, Nick Van Exel, Eddie Jones, Glen Rice, Mitch Richmond, Karl Malone, Gary Payton, and Ron Harper. Kobe had every reason to believe that once Shaq's salary came off the books, the Lakers would go shopping for a veteran superstar to pair with him. Instead, what has happened? The Lakers got cheap on him, saving dollars or spending it on projects like Kwame Brown (9 million this year!). Their overall salary, for the team that has the most expensive seats on average in the NBA? 13th! Such big cities as Denver, Cleveland, Portland, and San Antonio all have higher team salaries according to hoopshype.

It's not just about total salary, either. The Clippers, despite only having the 19th highest salary among teams, have made a splash since the 2004 season by acquiring veterans like Cuttino Mobley and Sam Cassell. Sure, the Clippers record is poor right now, but they made the moves that the Lakers traditionally made during Kobe's career there. And don't even get me started on the illogic of trading away Caron Butler when Phil Jackson is the incoming coach. You're telling me Phil couldn't get results with a 2-3-4 of Butler, Bryant, and Odom using the triangle offense?!

Now, I willingly admit that Kobe's own mammoth salary makes it hard to sign top-level veteran star talent. But come on, sign a couple veteran players with play-off experience. It's LA! Since when has it been hard to get players to come to the land of sun, sand, and silicone? No, I think that although Kobe's method of complaining was poor, he has valid reasons to complain. By any reasonable estimation, the Lakers' promises in the summer of 2004 to surround him with top-level talent to replace Shaq, Karl, and Gary have been broken.

Side note: Who put the "Use me" sign on Kobe's back? Whether it was Shaq, Phil, Vanessa, or Lakers management, dude gets used more than Shawn Bradley trying to block a dunk and blamed more often than GWB. Come on Kobe, go to PR 101 or something!

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