When the Lakers paraded their free agent signings in front of the media it was a run of the mill yawn, what happens when you strike out for the third year in a row on a premier free agent and you don’t dominate the headlines in your own city but pretend something special is in the works. So here they were, Roy Hibbert, Lou Williams and Brandon Bass. They faced the Los Angeles media as the consolation prize even as they pretended the opposite was true.
These prearranged media events are public relations coups for the team putting on the show, a moment to pat yourself on the back for basically doing your job, rebuilding your team but pretending you are hammering the last nail into the championship float. The fans eat it up as they fantasize about the season ahead. In July, everyone is equal, no one is lottery bound, every team has something worthy to celebrate.
But nothing is ever run in the mill with the Los Angeles Lakers. The search for drama is ever present and it happened in a moment of pure theater at the introductory presser of three players who have played elsewhere and came to Los Angeles for a variety of reasons. It was going along as expected. And then it happened. The assembled players were asked if Kobe Bryant had reached out to them, after all they signed their contracts last week. And then it really was a Hollywood moment. Steven Spielberg couldn’t have directed a more dramatic, tension filled, desperate, quiet as a pin, players masquerading as stone stuck in chairs. There was the kind of silence that makes you cringe in your chair, almost a car wreck you can’t bear to look at, that’s how uncomfortable it was until you reminded yourself it was predictably Kobe Bryant. Earlier this year he confessed he is a terrible friend, he misses birthdays, he gets so caught up in being Kobe, the rest of the world is invisible. But everyone expects Kobe Bryant to call Brandon Bass?
Yes. Because he is the captain of the team. He is the face of the franchise. He has been the one constant in the Lakers bubble through all of their ups and downs. He is the last active player linked to Dr. Jerry Buss. He has a responsibility- when much is given, much is expected.
I read something this morning on what Kobe needs to do in his final season. To paraphrase, Kobe needs a quick personality transplant. He needs to not be himself and not be willful and not be driven and not be persistent and not be overbearing and not be an asshole and not be self absorbed. In essence, extract his DNA and his brain from his body, drop it into a petri dish.
News flash to all the NBA types who believe people should change habits that are annoying, rude, insensitive and selfish. Rarely does it happen. People are who they are. They don’t change without a large enough reason to. Will Kobe reach out to Bass, Hibbert and Williams? Of course, just on his terms and not to make the Lakers feel good in front of the assembled media.
Here’s a thought: If only Brandon Bass and Lou Williams and Roy Hibbert were wearing soccer jerseys. That would have gotten Kobe’s attention. He spent the past few days ignoring the Lakers and hanging out with FC Barcelona, his favorite soccer team, hamming it up, taking pictures, enjoying them as if he was already retired which may be part of the not calling my teammates excuse. What’s the point? It’s one year and then his Lakers experience will be behind him. And these above average but no way great players will be part of his history too.
No one is confused about who Kobe is as a teammate and player. 19 years in and there isn’t going to be some massive transformation and the good thing is Kobe seems to have settled into his role, half in-half out the door. The neurotic part of him probably likes what happened today. He feeds off of antagonism and restless tension like predators feed off of flesh. He finds a peculiar sort of comfort being like no other player in the NBA. Last week Jordan Hill said of his former teammate, “some people can’t take him.” Kobe is hyper-critical and whatever silence he has had for his teammates won’t last.
September will be here soon enough. And then the Lakers will wish for July and a silent Kobe Bryant.
photo via Wikimedia.org