Here We Go Again: Kobe Saga Will Go On With The Lakers

By Steve Dilbeck
Updated: September 30, 2007

LOS ANGELES — Kobe is coming! Kobe is coming! Is he? Isn’t he? Won’t he?

Best guess: Sure looks that way. This being Kobe Bryant, of course, simple answers are in short supply. That’s how sagas play out.

With the moves he’s displayed this summer, Kobe would crush all competition on “Dancing with the Stars.” Take that, Mark Cuban. He’s left, he’s right, he’s standing still. He won’t shut up, he won’t talk, his mouth moves but nothing comes out.

It’s not like it’s important or anything, Kobe only being the most talented player in the world and complete center to the Lakers’ universe.

Kobe, as just possibly you might recall, has had himself another offseason to remember.

Suddenly seeing the light at the end-of- his-playing-career tunnel, Kobe scanned the Lakers’ one-and-out postseason roster and started making demands and potshots.

First, he wanted Jerry West brought back to the organization. Then he called owner Jerry Buss a liar and an idiot. Then in his amazing one-day radio marathon, he demanded to be traded, pleaded to be a Laker for life, and then … we think … again said he wanted out.

In the process he ripped teammates, general manager Mitch Kupchak and Buss. Later, he threw in a couple of shots at center Andrew Bynum in an amateur video filmed in a parking lot.

He’s a curvaceous red-head in a form-fitting dress sitting alone in a bar, face buried in a book and wearing headphones. All mixed signals.

And let’s not forget, it turns out Phil Jackson said he was in collusion with Kobe.

Imagine those conversations.

I gave Kobe an opportunity to clarify his situation back in July at a Nike function, and he passed. “I’ve spoken so much on the issue already,” Kobe said. “I mean, for me to say anything else … there’s not that much more for me to say.

“I’m just kind of moving on from it right now.”

He had another opportunity at his basketball camp at Loyola to clarify things for fans, and passed. Still several more during Team USA’s media days in Las Vegas, and passed.

But when asked pointedly in Las Vegas — after his ESPN mouthpiece Ric Bucher had implied he might not report if not traded — if he would be a the Lakers camp, Kobe said: “When the time is right, I’ll be more than glad to address that.”

The time has come and gone. The Lakers’ media day is Monday, followed by a plane ride to start camp in Hawaii the next day.

And Kobe’s not talking. Even the person he hired to talk for him is not talking.

“My only comment is, I have no comment,” spokeswoman Catherine Sebring said.

And couldn’t we all use a job like that? Sebring said Kobe was unavailable.

“I’m not going either way, whether he’s going to be there or not,” she said. “He plans to clear that up himself.”

By apparently showing up. The Lakers say all communication they’ve had with his agent indicates he will be there.

Yet perhaps the most telling sign that Kobe plans to report is on his Web site, operated by the company Sebring works for, which boasts, “ will be at media day to bring you the sights and sounds as it prepares to kickoff the 2007-08 season.”

Until then, what’s a little more intrigue?

Kobe’s choices are on the limited side. He’s under contract for four more years, though he can opt out after two (current odds: 4-1 he will).

Despite all those pleas that the Lakers improve their roster, almost exactly the same team will come back. Plug in Derek Fisher for Smush Parker into your ’06-’07 Lakers, and you have your ’07-’08 Lakers.

While no one would argue Fisher isn’t an upgrade over Parker, that was hardly the kind of major change Kobe or Lakers fans had in mind when the summer began.

The big deal, the big signing, never came. Which is not to say Kupchak did not try. Was ex-Celtic Kevin McHale really ever going to trade Kevin Garnett to the Lakers? Trading Kobe was never an option.

As is, the Lakers are mostly counting on having a healthy Lamar Odom, Kwame Brown and Chris Mihm, with improved play from youngsters Luke Walton and Kobe’s new best buddy, Bynum.

After Kobe’s infamous personal media-day meltdown this offseason, he later met with Kupchak to clarify the situation and said he had apologized to Bynum. Bynum, however, told the Riverside Press-Enterprise’s Broderick Turner last week he has yet to hear from Kobe. Hmm, maybe Sebring was supposed to talk to him.

If Kobe was so irate as to not show up at camp and sit out the season, he would be walking away from $19.5 million. So as Terrell Owens’ agent would say, Kobe has millions of reasons to be there.

The next question is, will he just be there, or will he be so dismayed by the roster’s lack of significant improvement that his heart is not into this play?

Kobe is generally given credit for being the ultimate competitor, so the safe assumption is, if he’s playing, he’ll be giving it his best. Which is not to say he doesn’t want to be traded. Kobe will probably tip-toe around that one Monday, tell us he’s said what he’s said, and now he’s just focused on the upcoming season.

It would be swell if he’d just say he wants to die a Laker and will do whatever he can to bring them another title, but don’t bet your Kobe-inscribed laser engraved basketball on it.

The saga will likely continue, but for the Lakers, at least it will be with Kobe.