First, some news...
Kobe Bryant was named for the fifth year running as a member of the NBA All-Defensive team. First string, no less. His cohorts are Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Rajon Rondo and Gerald Wallace. Given Mamba was tabbed among these elite lockdown artists and finished third in the MVP voting, it stands to reason he'd make the All-NBA First Team.
Which is exactly how the voting shook out.
Along with Kevin Durant, Howard, James, and Dwyane Wade, Kobe rounds out the top five. Happy news, but there's even more purple and gold representation. Pau Gasol garnered Third Team honors and Andrew Bynum received three points' worth of votes. (On the "purely local" front, Chris Kaman landed nine points.)
I also wanted to point out a pair of excellent Laker articles worth an eyeball. ESPNLA.com's Ramona Shelburne took an in-depth at the career of Lakers trainer Gary Vitti. The story is full of rich detail about Vitti's days with the Showtime squad, his relationship with Riles and PJ, and Kobe's pain tolerance. A must-read for Laker fans. Vitti's importance to the Lakers, particularly this injury-riddled season, can't possibly be overestimated.
ESPN columnist and Celtics booster Bill Simmons is about as popular among Laker fans as the Celts themselves, but he recently published a column likely to please purple-and-gold loyalists. While he contends Staples Center is strictly a see-and-be-seen venue for the Lakers during the regular season, a begrudging respect is offered to its patrons come playoff time. Even though it kills him to say, Simmons admits y'all are capable of bringing it when the games truly matter. In a twisted way, Simmons seemed to gain more enjoyment from having to acknowledge this reality than continuing to dismiss Lakers fans outright. As much fun as it is to peg the Laker Nation as fair weather California flakes, taking down a worthy adversary means more.
For me, the respect accorded by Simmons is what a storied rivalry between teams and fans is all about. You may wish each other nothing other than unbridled heartbreak, but recognizing and admiring the enemy's loyalty should also be part of the equation. If both fan bases acquit themselves well, this mutual gesture shouldn't be impossible to stomach even for the hardcore. It's only when an opposing team's fan is a jackass that you truly "hate" him (although if we're talking about that big a jackass, you'd probably hate this person even if he/she were rooted Lakers).
Finally, the newest PodKast. Brian and I discuss Lakers-Jazz, Kobe's refreshed legs, and why Andrew Bynum trade scenarios remain popular. Plus, penalties for obscure laws and the danger of combining hats and headbands. Plus, for those who may have missed it, my interview with Ice Cube.