FROM DENVER — Now that Phil and I have bonded, we still have a few wrinkles to work out -- beginning with who gets the credit when we win it all.
When asked about maybe collecting a 10th championship ring as NBA coach after we had dismantled the Nuggets, Phil shifted the talk to our very own players, and said, "It's really about them."
Hooray for our guys.
That's so nice, but just to clarify since I will be writing more glowing stories next week about our guys, I wanted to make sure: "So you don't want any credit when it comes to winning it all?"
By way of clarification, Phil said, "I'll take it all from you," as we continue to work together -- my role to motivate him and get the very best out of the very best coach in the game. "But everybody else [in the media] doesn't have to give me any."
I suspect, however, there will be one other reporter out there he will be trying to impress.
As you know, Jeanie's pursuit for a ring has almost been as relentless as Phil's. And on our way to beating Utah, Houston and the numskulls from Denver, Jeanie, the reporter, has been giving us "Jeanie's Journal" on Lakers.com.
But I noticed in her most recent intimate interview with our head coach, Phil was giving her the cold shoulder.
And I think I know why.
"Are you beginning to think of Jeanie as a reporter now rather than your girlfriend?" I asked.
Phil said something unintelligible, which is not all that unusual for him, so I moved on and asked if it was fair giving her more access than the rest of us?
"Yes, it is," he said with a grin, and I wonder why he was grinning?
When I asked why he hadn't invited me to join him on the drive to the arena to maybe quiz him like Jeanie, he said I would be a "distraction."
That's pretty funny, because I had labeled Jeanie a "distraction" in a column here last week, and he was quick with the retort, a great sign that he's really on top of his game.
For my part, I was just trying to take the heat off Jeanie, so they might continue going steady without putting her in the position, like the rest of us reporters, of reminding him how he blew it against Detroit and Boston the last time our guys had a chance to win it all.
In picking up the ball for Jeanie, who will be all tweets and giggles after our latest win, I asked Phil, "Wouldn't you rather see Cleveland because the Cavaliers would be easier to beat?"
"Actually, it's not a rather," Phil said. "The only thing that makes a difference is if it's Orlando, we make one road trip."
Now maybe Jeanie has the pillow talk edge, which makes it difficult at times competing as a reporter with Jeanie's Journal, but I still gave it a try.
"Being a basketball expert," I slobbered, "deep down in the pit of your stomach, don't you think Orlando will be tougher to beat?"
"No," Phil said. "I just checked my intuitive nature, and I don't have any feelings one way or another."
So much for the adage of "reading it here first." Now I'm going to have to wait for a tweet from Jeanie like everyone else.
GEORGE KARL said "I think Jesus would have had trouble covering" Kobe Bryant at one point. When Karl's comment was relayed to Bryant, he said, "It's tough to say that's a compliment, you know what I mean? It's a tremendous honor . . . I don't know, I did a great job using my teammates, and they knocked shots down and put the defense into a position where I could play one-on-one a little bit and take advantage of that."
As you notice, he never denied that He would have had trouble covering him.
WHEN IT comes to Phil and I, several folks e-mailed to suggest it should be Phil and me, Trudy Sibley putting it this way.
"It's almost a given that most professional athletes are grammatically challenged, but annoying that sportswriters have to follow suit: about Phil and I -- object of preposition: me."
I don't know about that; I just thought Phil and I sounded more better.
DODGERS' OWNER Frank McCourt called it a "great honor," and while some might consider it a travesty, the idea of Drug Man being voted into the All-Star game off a 50-game suspension "probably isn't the right thing for (Manny Ramirez) . . . this year," Manager Joe Torre said.
Imagine that, two great baseball minds at odds, making it so hard to say who has it right.
Torre said Ramirez would probably agree with him, but the Drug Man is in hiding and choosing not to be accountable these days, letting the fans speak for him on this matter.
McCourt told The Times he's pleased with the way Ramirez has handled his suspension to date, ignoring L.A.'s fans apparently no big deal as long as he met McCourt's demand to apologize to the players.
The fans of the Dodgers apparently need no such thing.
McCourt also said he doesn't require a specific explanation for what Drug Man did wrong. It worked for Gary Matthews Jr., after all, and McCourt has Arte Moreno to thank for mapping out how a baseball owner handles things like this.
"The fans are going to make up their own minds about this," McCourt told our Dylan Hernandez. "I think fans think for themselves, and they're entitled to do that." Yes, we all know how smart fans can be.
TODAY'S LAST word comes in e-mail from Paul Padilla:
"Thanks for your article, 'Joining Forces . . .' I truly enjoyed it and am relieved that we have 'one' writer that can side with the Lakers through thick or thin. I have often thought that in order to be a 'Beat Writer' for any sports team, the first characteristic you have to have is being NEGATIVE, the second being CYNICAL."
Sometimes I feel as if I'm the only positive writer out there.