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Inside the NBA | COAST TO COAST

Only way to stop Bryant ... is to suspend him

March 18, 2007|Mark Heisler

It's not nice to fool with Mother Nature, or Kobe. ...

Whatever Kobe Bryant is in other walks of life, whatever anyone thinks of him, on a basketball court he's the stuff of legend.

Even for him, Friday's game was amazing: 65 points, 33 in the fourth quarter and overtime, nine in the last 1:40 of regulation, bringing the Lakers back from a 96-89 deficit.

That it followed a week in which the league teed him up for talk shows to debate if he was a dirty player was merely routine in this most storm-tossed of great careers.

Portland Coach Nate McMillan had two defenders chasing him 30 feet out ... and they weren't enough.

"He was just unstoppable," said a crestfallen McMillan.

It was a reminder of why the great teams don't want to see the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.

Bryant is the Lakers' hope and crutch. With him, there's no one they might not beat, even if their talent level doesn't compare. The nightmare scenario used to be that he'd burn out and ask to be traded, but that's a happier Kobe you see now.

Late Friday he was asked whether he could imagine coming to the end of his rope.

"Not even close," he said. "I'm just getting started."

Owner's kid blues

One thing about Donald T. Sterling in his darkest days as an NBA owner -- as someone who had made his own fortune, there was something he could do.

Then there's Knicks boss James Dolan, son of the Cablevision chief executive, who just chose an unusual time to extend embattled Isiah Thomas' contract.

Noting their 114-175 record in Thomas' four seasons, just under .400, the New York Post's Peter Vecsey wrote, "James Dolan's no dope. He knows that number guarantees induction into Cooperstown."

Thomas actually turned their old, small roster around, but, as someone who thinks a lot of him, it's painful to see him reduced to a Dolan-mandated smiley face.

Hiding behind his yes-men, Dolan remains as transparent as he is willful. Insiders called this move months ago, as they called Larry Brown's stunning ouster.

Said Dolan: "I know there are some that will worry that, 'Oh, the pressure will be off.' Don't worry. This team will play just as hard as it did before this announcement."

They're 0-2 since, falling from No. 8 to No. 10. If I were a Knicks fan, I wouldn't be worried. I'd be retired.

'Round and 'round

Not that Ron Artest's life is a mess, but his lawyer just got custody of his Great Dane in a foster-care agreement. The county took the dog in a neglect case before Artest's arrest on suspicion of domestic abuse. ... Former teammate Reggie Miller to Dan Patrick on ESPN Radio: "There are eight different Ron Artests. I do believe basketball is Ron's sanctuary. He needs help." ... The bad news is that Artest had counseling and stopped taking medication. ... Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, lamenting their lack of "that one intimidating force" such as Shaquille O'Neal or Michael Jordan: "Even Larry Bird when he was playing wasn't really that presence." ... Cuban, an Indiana grad, may not have forgiven Bird for leaving IU.

Famous last words

Bill Russell, told that Boston Coach Doc Rivers said Ohio State's Greg Oden could be the next Bill Russell: "No, he's not."

-- Mark Heisler

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