All quiet on the Western front ... a little too quiet for some
Derek Fisher officially met the media Friday afternoon, once again a Laker. But given how things have gone this summer, Kobe Bryant again dominated conversation across the hoops universe (you know, aside from the allegations that a referee had helped fix games, calling into question the integrity of an entire professional sport). Kobe took no steps Friday to clear up the whole Lakers-or-no-Lakers question when he met the media as a member of USA Basketball. He admitted his Grand Radio Tour sent mixed signals, but feels this isn't the time to clarify his position, even when given a few cracks at it by an old friend. Still, he said lots of nice things ... just not the nice thing.
We've all spent a lot of time trying to decode the tea leaves on this one, and even Fish said people shouldn't read too much into his return to the Lakers, at least as it relates to Kobe. At this point, unless the answer is, "I'm committed to staying in L.A. and trust management to do the right things," he's probably better staying mum on the subject. By doing so, it'll continue to fuel speculation that he wants out, but that can't be avoided, especially if Kobe's still harboring some issues with the folks in El Segundo. He is right that to turn the USA Basketball season into a Laker Circus isn't fair. And even if Kobe does say he wants to stay, there's an element of distraction, too. "Are you happy with Mitch? Can this group win a championship? Do you still want Jerry West?" And so on and so forth.
All of this is a consequence of how things went down this summer. That Kobe repeatedly said he wished things had gone down differently is sticking to the plan of keeping things in-house is a positive sign. It might cause the rest of us to wonder out loud, but clearly it's better than the media-frenzied alternative. The more public this spat becomes, the worse it is for everyone.
But since all that's left is for us to speculate ... let's do it. I wonder if Kobe really knows what he wants. I doubt he's gained a lot more trust of management, specifically that a championship-caliber team can be assembled around him quickly. On the other hand, he clearly understands the fallout from everything that went down didn't make him look good, and he is trying to repair the damage. And I think Kobe understands the team isn't going to move him. So that leaves a holdout come training camp, and to start talking about that with the media in mid-July is a horrible idea.
Personally, I think he'll be there. With bells on? I have no idea. That he hasn't come out and said he'll be a Laker in October certainly makes you wonder what he wants. Or if he knows.