1. Kobe Stuff: The big this week has been Kobe Bryant-Laker situation. Rumors were abound that Kobe was refusing to play because he sat out three practices for no apparent reason (he claimed injury). More to the point, owner Jerry Buss, without much prompting, basically stated that the market was open for Kobe: “It’s just part of the game, to listen to somebody who has a dissatisfied player that you think is going to fit. You can’t keep too many loyalties. You’ve got to look at it as a business. He looks at it the same way.”
Now it’s not crazy to say that any player is available for the right price but to harp on Bryant’s satisfaction seems counterproductive. If Buss was holding out hope to placate Bryant this ain’t going to do it. Bryant had seemed pretty content since his June tirades. Taking all these facts at face value (which is probably a little unfair), what does Buss have to gain by opening the market up for Kobe?
Frankly, not too much. Unless there’s something we don’t know, the most leverage that the Lakers have is if they can at least pretend that Kobe has a chance of being happy in L.A.. A fire sale is more likely to create more leverage for the bidders. It is possible that a fire sale could force teams to proffer their best offers but there are only a finite number of teams with cap room and Kobe’s blessing so a seller’s market is not likely.
There is another component to this that seems more psychological in nature. Buss definitely seems like the type to speak his mind to either lay the groundwork for his decision or, perhaps because he can’t keep his decision making process bottled in. In 2004, he made it pretty clear he didn’t want to pay Shaq and that he didn’t want Phil Jackson back. In any event, it sounds like Kobe will not be a Laker by the end of the year. This may have happened regardless but these are not optimum conditions to make a deal.
2. Ten Years Ago: Can you believe that it’s been ten years since Michael Jordan’s final(ish) season and the crazy game winner over Bryon Russell and the Jazz. Just for fun, I thought I’d run over the 1997-98 rosters to see whose left in the NBA as of the end of 2006-07:
–Atlanta: Dikembe Mutombo, Alan Henderson, Randy Livingston
–Boston: Antoine Walker, Bruce Bowen
-Charlotte: David Wesley
–Cleveland: Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Brevin Knight, Derek Anderson, Vitaly Potapenko
–Dallas: Michael Finley, Kurt Thomas
–Denver: Bobby Jackson, Tony Battie, Eric Willams
–Detroit: Grant Hill, Jerry Stackhouse, Scot Pollard
–Golden State: Donyell Marshall, Erick Dampier, Adonal Foyle
–Indiana: Jalen Rose, Dale Davis, Austin Croshere
–L.A. Clippers: Maurice Taylor, Eric Piatkowski, Lorenzen Wright, Darrick Martin
–L.A. Lakers: Shaquille O’Neal, Eddie Jones, Kobe Bryant, Robert Horry, Derek Fisher
-Miami: Alonzo Mourning, Brent Barry, P.J. Brown
–Milwaukee: Ray Allen
–Minnesota: Kevin Garnett, Stephon Marbury
–New Jersey: Sam Cassell
–New York: None
–Orlando Magic: Darrell Armstrong, Bo Outlaw
–Philadelphia: Allen Iverson, Tim Thomas, Theo Ratliff, Joe Smith, Eric Snow, Aaron McKie, Anthony Parker
–Phoenix: Antonio McDyess, Clifford Robinson, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash
–Portland: Rasheed Wallace, Kelvin Cato, Damon Stoudamire, Jermaine O’Neal
–Sacramento: Corliss Williamson
–San Antonio: Tim Duncan, Malik Rose
–Seattle: Gary Payton, Aaron Williams
–Toronto: Doug Christie, Marcus Camby, Tracy McGrady, Chauncey Billups, Alvin Williams
–Utah: Jacque Vaughn, Troy Hudson
–Vancouver: Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Antonio Daniels
–Washington: Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Ben Wallace
Of this group, only eight were still on the same team on 2006-07. Going even further, Ilgauskas, Kobe, Garnett, and Duncan were the only players to stay with the sane franchise the entire (the other four were re-acquire down the line). There appears to be little to no correlation between the number of players who lasted ten years and how good the 1997-98 teams were but it was interesting to look at.
3. More Euro Stuff: Last week, we noted the rise in NBA/FIBA games the last few years. When we last looked, the NBA teams were 2-1 against FIBA teams in Europe. Since then the series has completed with the NBA teams going 8-1 the rest of the way against FIBA (and the Chinese National Team). The second loss was in a close game where Real Madrid beat Toronto by a point in Madrid in a game where Chris Bosh did not play. Real Madrid was led Louis Bullock, the former Michigan standout. In the U.S., the games weren’t very close. Of the eight games, only one NBA victory (the Raptors’ 6-point win over Zalgiris Kaunas), was by less than 19 points. It’s hard to say that these results me too much but the homecourt does make some advantage.