So now we have Kobe Bryant trashing teammates and management alike on some covert amateur commando video.
This coming after a statement on his Web site spoke of continued dissatisfaction with the direction of the Los Angeles Lakers and a new interest in being traded. Which came after Bryant flew to Barcelona to meet with owner Jerry Buss and, according to the Los Angeles Times, figured out he still wanted to be dealt.
All of this, of course, comes in the wake of his Memorial Day weekend schizophrenic radio tour where he alternated claiming he would never play for the Lakers again and affirming his commitment to winning a fourth title in L.A.
You follow all of that?
What a couple of weeks this has been, even by Kobe standards.
Slowly but surely, day after day, bizarre act after bizarre act, he keeps hurting only himself. All of the goodwill, good soldier, good teammate stuff that he painstakingly built up after Colorado is eroding with each passing episode.
It's not that what Bryant keeps saying is all that incorrect – it's that he keeps finding worse and worse ways of saying it.
Web site open letters? Radio flip flops? And now some strange rant in a shopping center parking lot, mouthing off to a couple of strangers whom he may or may not have known were filming him? Was this really the best place to rip teammate Andrew Bynum and general manager Mitch Kupchak?
Bryant is essentially correct about this entire deal. He is the most talented player in the NBA and in his prime at 29, and the Lakers have done little to surround him with enough talent to compete for a championship, especially in the brutal Western Conference. This isn’t the easy breezy East where LeBron James can reach the finals with similarly average support.
Kupchak has been bad. Just about every Lakers fan wishes Jerry West was still running the team. The idea that L.A. used a lottery pick on Bynum, a high school project in 2005, was questionable enough, but the idea that they wouldn’t pursue Jason Kidd because they wanted to keep him?
"Are you kidding me?" asks Bryant in the video.
Well, are they?
The thing is, if Bryant had an ounce of savvy, he could have spun this completely to his advantage. When the truth is on your side, when your core argument is that you just want to win, you shouldn’t come out looking like the bad guy – petulant, power hungry, ungrateful and unstable.
But what everyone is seeing is an irrational tantrum, stranger and stranger each time. And Bryant sure isn’t helping himself get traded. The past three weeks have done nothing to convince a contender to gamble on him, an owner to believe in him, a fan base to trust him. His handling of this has been career suicide – burning bridges on both sides of the island.
What a disaster and no amount of Phil Jackson talks are going to settle it down. Bryant’s true feelings are evident. His desire to get out of L.A. is real; it wasn’t just frustration and emotion talking. The temporary backtrack was the emotion – guilt, loyalty, embarrassment, whatever.
At this point, the Lakers are going to have to actually consider the unthinkable: trading him.
Buss understandably wants no part of that. Or at least he didn't three weeks ago. He banked the franchise on Kobe and dealt Shaquille O'Neal for what has amounted to little. He can't now give up Bryant for what will assuredly be below market value.
First off, the list of potential destinations dwindles by the day. Second, even a sound basketball trade can't replace the star power of Kobe. In L.A., you can’t sell three dimes for a quarter. The fans want the bright lights guy. Bryant, no matter what, remains that.
But he is also a wild card, a wild child and no one knows what he'll do next. One time, when he was getting criticized for shooting too much, he pouted and stopped shooting, passed the ball every single time like a wise-guy fifth grader.
If he doesn't want to be in L.A. next season, he can sabotage things in a million different ways. Really, at this point, do you put anything past him?
Bryant is a spectacular talent who has a deep desire to win, to compete, to get his front office and ownership to help make it happen.
But he has no idea how to tell them that. No idea at all. He just keeps thinking of the newest wrong way. And so it keeps getting worse, for the franchise, for the franchise players.
First a radio tour, now a bootleg internet video?
Are you kidding me?