So, has Kobe Bryant's tantrum finally ended?
First, he wants to be traded. Nothing will change his mind.
Well, wait. He isn't sure. Maybe not.
Oh, never mind. He talked to Phil Jackson. He feels better. They'll figure this out together.
And on and on he goes, Bryant controlling the news cycle on an hourly basis now, changing course, causing re-writes, relentlessly manipulating his move over the Spurs and LeBron James as the story of these NBA playoffs.
Bryant is out of his mind right now, but in his element. This national debate over his future goes a long way to sooth his endless ego.
In the end, Bryant won't be traded. Nor will he want it. Mostly, this embarrassing episode has been a chance to blow off steam, flex his muscle and give everyone a good laugh with the signature line on his blog entries that says, "Strength and Honor, Kobe Bryant."
As much as Bryant wants to win, he wants everyone to empathize with him, acknowledge just how horrible he has it. Rest assured, it's been duly noted. In the end, there is no trade the Los Angeles Lakers can make to assure that they'll keep filling the Staples Center, that they'll have the star power necessary to stay relevant in Hollywood.
Jerry Buss has no inclination to ever trade one of the rare few ticket sellers in the sport, and Bryant doesn't want to leave Los Angeles.
Sure, he has his moments. He thinks about it. When he woke up Wednesday morning, he had gone back to that deep-seeded desire he's long had to take his act to Madison Square Garden. It was no coincidence that he chose Stephen A. Smith's New York radio show on Wednesday to say that he wanted a trade out of L.A.
Whatever. Bryant isn't leaving, but if he did, several league sources believe he wants to play for the New York Knicks. And that includes one high-ranking Western Conference executive, who said, "I think he would only go to New York."
Wherever he would go in the Eastern Conference, that team would immediately be a conference championship contender. Kobe with almost anyone would be comparable to the Cavaliers with LeBron. A third team, maybe even a fourth, would be needed to create a circumstance where Bryant could be traded to the Knicks. There's no way Buss could sell Eddy Curry and Jamal Crawford, the core of a 30-win East garbage bin, as the Lakers' new era.
Perhaps the strongest suitor for Bryant would be the Chicago Bulls, whom he did talk with as a free agent three years ago. They could offer a combination of Luol Deng, Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich, Tyrus Thomas and a lottery pick. Atlanta Hawks? Bryant would never go there. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban would have major interest in him and the assets to make a trade possible, but the Lakers would try hard to move him out of the West. And as one Pacific Division general manager said Wednesday night, "No way would the Lakers trade him to a division rival, (but) I don't think he'll get traded anyway."
For now, Bryant is raging over a so-called "Lakers insider" quoted in the Los Angeles Times saying that Shaquille O'Neal's departure was Kobe's fault. He wants this employee fired, because remember, Kobe has never manipulated his guys in the press to push his own agenda.
These Lakers, as lost as they are constructing a contender, supported him unconditionally through his rape charges, flew him back and forth on a team jet from hearings in Colorado, and his reward to them? Opting out of his contract, and threatening to leave for the Los Angeles Clippers. But now, Bryant says he has "trust issues" with the Lakers.
Anyway, he spent most of his late day on Wednesday backpedaling on his demand for a trade. He isn't going anywhere, and chances are, he'll stop talking soon. He has done enough damage to his name, his Lakers, and cost them considerable leverage dealing with the rest of the league this summer.
He'll be the center of everything this summer, probably all the way until he starts railing on Team USA G.M. Jerry Colangelo for his inability to surround Bryant with enough talent to beat Brazil in the FIBA Americas championship this summer. By then, Kobe will be calling for Colangelo to work a deal for Manu Ginobili.
- Kobe Bryant