Kobe Bryant: M(ost) V(aluable) P(resident of the future)
Save physically and/or socially awkward science fiction types participating only because the gym teacher demands it, people do not generally wear pants to play basketball. Like a good Vegas stage show, some amount of leg is required. In fact, there's only one guy I can think of who has in recent memory taken his short pants all the way to the floor during a run on the hardwood: President Barack Obama (right).
Until today, that is.
Yes, no less than Kobe Bryant spent Tuesday's practice in a pair of gleaming white sweat pants. Last week(ish), I posted information about the delay in consummating a contract extension for LA's favorite superstar. It referred to things like "salary caps" and "collective bargaining agreements." Based on Tuesday's events, though, one can't overlook the notion that Kobe simply may want to be tied down too long after his 35th birthday, when he will be Constitutionally eligible for our nation's highest office. Now, the responsible thing would be to point out that Kobe has never served in public office, never expressed any real desire to do so, and has many good years left on the basketball court. That's not the direction I'm going to go. Instead, I'll put it this way: All available evidence suggests Kobe Bryant has every intention of being President of the United States, and soon.
Kobe didn't do much to build his voter base in today's firsts vs. seconds scrimmage. He hit what proved to be the game winner (Adam Morrison had a chance to steal back the victory with a buzzer beating three, but apparently hasn't mastered this...) in a big comeback victory for the starters, and didn't miss the chance to talk a little trash when it was done, either. Both on the court, and to the media (see below).
He did note how hard the reserves force the starters to play on a daily basis, and how that contributes to the quality of the team generally. I mostly saw that as a transparent vote grab, an attempt to pander to guys Kobe hopes will eventually comprise his base. Guys not only who will vote for him, but also pass out a few fliers or work a phone bank. It could just be me, though, since I've already grown weary with the politicization of Lakers practice.
More news/video below...
The only real nuggety note from today was the possible loss of DJ Mbenga, who was limping off the floor with the help of trainer Gary Vitti as the media was let in. It's reasonable to wonder if he re-aggravated the groin injury that was a problem during training camp and over the first games of the regular season. We'll learn more tomorrow, I'm sure.
Most everything else at Tuesday's run was centered around tomorrow's matchup with the Jazz at Staples. Utah will come in hot, winning eight of their last 10, including two victories over San Antonio and another over Portland. The Lakers know the Jazz will provide a test. "They're playing well. (Carlos) Boozer was the Player of the Month, or Week, or whenever the NBA gives them out," Phil Jackson said. "They're physical games (we play against them)."
"They always play us tough. We know each other about as well as two teams can know each other," Kobe said.
No argument from Derek Fisher. "They play a style of game that allows them to compete against anybody. They're a team that moves the ball offensively. They pass, they cut, they share the ball, they're going to have a high number of assists, and they do a lot of things in the paint, which really puts you in foul situations, slows the game down, and they play hard. When you bring those to the table, you can play against anybody."
Don't call Fish a liar, either. The numbers show the Jazz lead the league in assist ratio, and are third in the NBA generating and-one chances per FG attempt (the Lakers, by the way, are tops in that category). Nor do they play all that fast.
We'll have more on this one tomorrow, for sure. In the meantime, enjoy these moving pictures:
PHIL JACKSON: On measuring practices to keep guys fresh ahead of a crowded December schedule, and tomorrow's game:
KOBE BRYANT: On the Jazz, the upcoming road trip, and today's scrimmage. (NOTE: I can't tell you exactly what he said in response to the last question in the vid, but it's not "You're right, they do beat us all the time."):
ANDREW BYNUM: On playing the Jazz, the upcoming road trip:
(PHOTO: President Barack Obama dribbles the basketball. Credit Bill Frakes, SI)