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An open letter to Coby Karl

September 19, 2007 | 11:08 pm

Dear Coby:

So here's the deal.  Mitch Kupchak has expressed a desire to cap the roster at 14, in case a veteran they'd like to add becomes available down the stretch.  There are 14 players with guaranteed contracts.  Yours is only partially guaranteed.  And while such deals have worked out for Lakers past (Smush Parker) and present (Ronny Turiaf), the roster makeup isn't nearly in your favor as it was for them.  Sure, you had a nice Summer Pro League in Vegas, complete with a 20-point game, a blazing 47% clip from behind the arc and some nice all-around skills. Then again, you battled the likes of former Lakers scrub Jelani McCoy, '06 Lakers SPL foul machine Eddy Fobbs and Lakers Blog icon Von Wafer, who was likely too busy mapping out his next five shots to guard anyone.  It would be understandable if the powers that be weren't necessarily convinced that showing merits clearing space for you via trade or waive.  Thus, you're gonna have to wow them in a big, bad way.

Since I'm all about rooting for the underdog, I've been brainstorming strategies for making that "wow" happen.  Then I noticed how you haven't been issued a number yet, according to the Lakers website, and it hit me.  You want Mitch, Phil Jackson and the Buss family to know that nothing intimidates you?  That you're ready to make your presence known with a ginormous splash?

Request to wear No. 8.

Do it, man. 

Waltz right up to the equipment manager or whomever is in charge of jerseys and tell him you'd like No. 8.  Upon receiving the inevitable confused look, tell him again that you'd like No. 8.  When notified it was Kobe Bryant's old number, pretend you weren't aware (nice touch), then calmly ask if the number's been retired since he switched to No. 24.  After being informed it's not (to the best of my knowledge), respond with "OK," then say you'd like No. 8. 

Seriously, Coby.  This is your ticket.  This is how to convince everybody that matters that you're the scrappiest, toughest, biggest-balls undrafted free agent since Ben Wallace in '96.  Grabbing No. 8 makes that statement in spades, and on a couple levels.  For starters, the minute you signed a contract with the Lakers, you signed on for an endless stream of "Coby-Kobe" jokes (99.999% at your expense) for your entire stint in purple and gold.  Take my word on this (in part because I guarantee I'll make more than a few).  The yuk-yuks will NEVER end.  Doesn't even matter if Kobe leaves or gets traded.  Folks will still crack wise about you being the "Coby/Kobe II."  There's no avoiding it.  That's why you gotta slap that No. 8 on your back and let it make a declaration:  "You got jokes?  Bring 'em!  I'll even help write the punchline for you uncreative hecklers.  I don't give a #%@!"

That's a guy who lets whatever crap is tossed his way run down his back.  You need guys like that on a team.  I'd put a guy like that on mine.

Plus, there's just no better way of expressing that you have cajones for days than by donning Kobe Bryant's old digits.  That's not exactly picking up where Greg Foster left off with No. 40.  Save perhaps a new center taking Shaq's old No. 34, I doubt a bigger statement could be made by an incoming Laker.  All kidding aside, it requires monster boldness to be the next Laker blazing ocho under any circumstances.  But to do it while Kobe's still on the team?  In his prime?  Only two seasons removed from when the Mamba actually wore it?  Dude, that is beyond bold.  That's telling Dirty Harry to go ahead and make your day.  That's calling Crispin Glover out when he claims to know karate.  That's walking up to Ron Artest and pouring beer on his head.   

Hell, I'd even see if the league will allow you to put "Coby" on your back instead of "Karl."  If you're gonna do this, go big. 

Look, it's apparent you're a pretty tough kid without utilizing any gimmick.  You've beaten cancer.  Twice.  You made Boise State's team as a walk-on.  You managed to have a famous coach for a dad without turning into a basket case.  Clearly, you don't scare easily.  But the odds are realistically stacked against you, a space-clearing move doesn't feel imminent and the team's heavy on guards as it is.  Any ace in the hole could be the difference between playing at Staples for the Zen Master or Dan Panaggio.  An ace that screams "Dude you want in a fox hole" could be particularly appealing for a squad lacking some character down the stretch.  I can't promise it'll land you a gig, but I can pretty much guarantee it won't hurt.

One final note.  If for whatever reason Kobe takes this approach as a sign of disrespect -- I'd like to think he'd find it amusing, impressive or both -- and angrily confronts you, avoid the urge to respond with a quizzical, "And you are ... who?"  I know I told you to go big, but I didn't say go stupid.  At this point, my approach has officially backfired.  Abort mission.  Just tell him you requested "88," then take the equipment manager you'll blame for the mix-up out for a steak dinner.  Throw in a lobster to go, if needed.