NEW YORK — Since the NBA last played games that counted, we’ve had a rogue referee plead guilty, an oafish organization found guilty and the league’s principal point producer/insubordinate is within a hair ball of leveraging himself off the Lakers’ lot.
Good thing David Stern hired Baghdad Bob to manage the media.
All bets are off on picking a team to win the championship, Tim Donaghy and I concur, until Kobe Bryant is relocated, at which point I’m going the other way.
The Chicago Bulls remain the favored destination. Both sides find each other irresistible.
“Excuse us, Kobe, but we couldn’t help but notice ourselves staring at you.”
More significantly, the Bulls have enough assets to make the Lakers practically feel like they haven’t been star-jacked. That ain’t easy since Luol Deng has been deemed untouchable by both GM John Paxson . . . and Kobe, who reputedly won’t waive his no-trade clause unless the rising All-Star is his copilot.
Within the last 24 hours, conversations between the Lakers and interested suitors have intensified. But, again, Kobe casts a shadow over trade talk.
Naturally, he would love to don a Dallas uniform and dance the fandango with Mark Cuban, er, (eminently unavailable) Dirk Nowitzki, or join forces with Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire.
But, seriously, can anyone with an IQ above frozen water see the Lakers dealing him to a conference competitor?
Speculation by Chicago Tribune columnist Sam Smith (erroneously supplied by an obtuse, unidentified GM) claimed there could be a Kobe-Gilbert Arenas exchange on the horizon.
Oh, I see, the Bulls won’t give up their best player for Kobe, but the Wizards are supposed to surrender their franchise player!
What, their second and third-best players aren’t sufficient?
I’m not a talent scout in real life but I used to play one on the Arthur Godfrey Show; and in my view, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler are as good, if not better, than what the Bulls are offering — Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich or Andres Nocioni, with Tyrus Thomas and a first-rounder or two (don’t tell me they’ve run dry of lottery Knick picks) thrown into the pot for sweet seasoning.
In the final analysis, the Lakers may decide not to budge from their demand for Deng. Should that happen Kobe will have a conniption.
After a summer of demonic dissatisfaction and a training camp of undeclared defiance, he’s so cantankerous and so impatient to flee at this point he’s liable to start spewing substitute sites.
That changeup, of course, would afford L.A. the opportunity to upgrade its severance package.
“Maybe that’s what the Lakers are ultimately trying to do,” a Windy City source allowed. “Get him so angry they can deal with everyone so they’re not forced to settle for less. As long as Kobe only will accept going to a few teams what is the incentive for any team to gut its roster to get him? There is none because we would all then have the same unhappy player on our team.”
That being noted, executives throughout the league continue to tout Chicago as Kobe’s first choice. Still, think of the possibilities should the bidding be open to everyone.
The Hawks possess a glut of gifted young, athletically freaky forwards and All-Star Joe Johnson.
The combination of the Knicks’ Zach Randolph, Jamal Crawford and David Lee has some appeal.
The Nets’ display case is stuffed with collectibles; pick and choose among a re-signed Vince Carter, a healthy Richard Jefferson, Nenad Krstic (not yet 100 percent), Bostjan Nachbar (looking like Larry Legend during preseason), Marcus Williams (due back Dec. 1 from a broken foot) and the spectacular shot-blocking Sean Williams.
With all due respect to the above mentioned, there may not be a more perfect fit than the Pistons. Obviously, they must give to get; Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince would somewhat compensate L.A. for the loss of its crown jewel and also it works contractually.
Meanwhile, the vets who would remain with the Pistons have won, as Kobe has won, so the pressure to win wouldn’t be as great as in Chicago, New York, Atlanta or New Jersey, because they know how to done-do a title.
Then again, maybe Kobe’s stretched ego cannot be gratified performing in an out-of-the-way oasis vs. a sexy city.
Peter Vecsey covers the NBA for the New York Post.
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