<
>

Phil Jackson Pushes Kobe Bryant's "Calm" Button

5/30/2007

Kobe Bryant tells ESPN's Dan Patrick that after talking to his coach, Phil Jackson, he is open to the idea that the Lakers might be able to work something out to make him stay. Bryant couldn't give a lot of reasons for optimism, other than Jackson said everything would be OK, and Bryant makes absolutely clear that he trusts Jackson.

Later on Bryant talked to KLAC and backed off the trade talk even further.

Hmm ...

Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant apparently have similar goals here: Both want big-name talent on that roster so they can win a title in the next couple of years as Bryant and Jackson cling to their primes.

In getting the front office moving, however, Bryant the superstar has ten times the leverage of Jackson the coach.   

If you look at the course of events -- Bryant's rage was reportedly born in a conversation with Jackson yesterday morning -- is it possible that Jackson intentionally riled up Bryant as a tactic to turn up the heat on the front office?

Of course, Bryant, as a player, has an option that coaches don't have: trade. A Bryant trade would be murderous to Jackson's quest to win that tenth title. He'd be starless, under contract with a questionable front office, and miserable. When the fire of Bryant's rage toward the front office burned in the trade direction for a few hours today, Jackson was exceedingly quick to dump cold water on it.

They call Phil Jackson is the master of mindgames, and it looks like Bryant's saber-rattling may get Jackson exactly what he presumably always wanted: Bryant in town coupled fresh direction and a sense of urgency in the front office. ESPN Insider Chad Ford is hanging out with general managers at the pre-draft camp in Orlando and reports:

Most of the GMs I spoke with said they believe owner Jerry Buss won't trade Kobe.

They think he'll fire Mitch Kupchak, replace Kupchak with a GM that Kobe likes (probably not Jerry West, who is very close with Kupchak) and then sell Kobe on a bold course of action.

That move, by the way, is long overdue.

The bottom line, if you listen to what Kobe says, is that he thinks Kupchak lacks the courage to make a big move. He's had chances to acquire Baron Davis, Carlos Boozer and Jason Kidd but talked himself out of each trade because he didn't want to incur the risk involved.

That jibes with what a number of GMs said about Kupchak.

The main thing that amazes me about this: How has Jerry Buss not yet had a conversation with Bryant (that we know of)? How has Bryant not called Buss? Aren't they certain to have that session at some point soon? Is it good for them to let this thing keep playing out as a national soap opera? Maybe it sells some tickets, I don't know. But my gut says that the next time Kobe Bryant picks up the phone, it should be to his boss, not the media.