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MARK HEISLER / ON THE NBA

These 'wild' times for Lakers are mild by their standards

Sure, it's been an eventful week, with speculation about Kobe Bryant's and Phil Jackson's futures, and a Rolling Stone writer's calling Bryant ‘a demented three-faced narcissist.' But the Lakers have won titles with a lot more weirdness going on than this.

March 28, 2010|Mark Heisler

Before I get to the latest Lakers crises as the team plunges into the abyss with Phil Jackson and/or Kobe Bryant leaving, I want to thank everyone in Lakerdom, just for being.

Without you, we'd just cover ordinary teams like the Clippers, whose dysfunction is entertaining but whose winning percentage isn't high enough for anyone to care about them but them, a.k.a. Clipper Nation.

Crazed and successful, like the Lakers, equals "zany."

Crazed and a laughingstock, like the Clippers, equals "crazed laughingstock."

The Lakers aren't just zany, they're a national treasure, the Loony Bin That Keeps on Giving.

These days, anything they miss in the way of lunacy is made up for by the world around them — Lakerdom as a global phenomenon, or pathology!

These Lakers are actually pretty dull, give or take one otherworldly, standup comedy-delivering, sanctity-of-locker-room-invading, owner's daughter-dating, NBA's winningest-ever, $12-million-a-year coach.

Of course, it's Jackson, whom I'd like to thank specifically for being.

Then there's Bryant, the Human Lightning Rod, or as some I-can-say-anything-and-they'll-run-it-just-watch Rolling Stone bozo just called him, "a demented three-faced narcissist."

Of course, if the ground is trembling under the Lakers, something must be going wrong, right?

Or not.

It's true, at 54-19, the Lakers are only six games ahead of the West, and three behind Cleveland for the No. 1 record.

In last season's title run, they won the West by 10 and were only one behind the Cavaliers!

Bryant hasn't signed an extension and really could leave . . . if some other team offered close to what he has.

No one does, so it will take some flight of fancy to put him in play, even if he is Kobe.

Owner Jerry Buss really will ask Jackson to take a cut to the $8-million-to-$9-million range.

Not that Phil's return is a certainty, especially if they don't win a title, but he's OK with taking less.

In any case, Jackson and Bryant aren't inextricably bound.

As close a partnership as they've formed, Kobe would be fine with Byron Scott or Brian Shaw — who'd be the leading candidates for that reason.

So, concerning week's breathless reports, based on Jackson's latest hints that he'd like to stay but could go. . . .

Duh.

Earning special distinction for doom was Roland Lazenby of Lakerbull, er, Lakernoise.com, who had speculated a Phil/Jeanie-vs.-Jerry/Jim Buss split could run off Jackson.

Last week Lazenby announced he had helped heal the rift in a piece called "I'm Declaring Victory."

"I'm pretty unapologetic," Lazenby wrote, noting the heat he had gotten.

"My inside source, one that has long enjoyed a close relationship with Jackson and Jeanie Buss, has detailed for me the growing problem. . . .

"In 1998, I watched all the egos and petty issues slowly tear apart perhaps the greatest team of the modern era, Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls. . . . The same scenario was developing in LA LA Land. . . .

"Maybe Jackson and the Busses really have declared a truce. Maybe they really have dialed back the hard feelings and found common ground to ease the mistrust.

"Let's hope so.

"I'm declaring victory anyway. . . . I forced them to speak out about their issues perhaps before those issues had a chance to wreck things."

Actually, Lazenby's source has been apologizing to all concerned since giving Roland the tip that led to his Hoopshype column, "LeBron a Laker?"

There really is a Phil/Jeanie, Jerry/Jim split. It's just not a very wide split.

The wonder of the Lakers, who have had zanier people than this — try Jerry West — is they haven't just functioned nonetheless, they've been a model franchise.

Despite the angst Jeanie feels for her man, Phil is anything but a fearful person.

If Jim is involved, despite what his father says, his father runs things.

For all the discord in sports, nowhere is it acknowledged so freely, let alone by a team as successful/glamorous/hated/loved as the Lakers.

That can be explained in two words, Phil Jackson.

(If you and Buss are $1 million apart, I'm going to try to get The Times to kick in the difference.)

(OK, maybe not.)

In the meantime, I'm eager to read that Matt Taibbi piece in Rolling Stone to see how he came up with "demented three-faced narcissist."

The only person I ever heard of going past two faces was Sybil, who had 16.

Oh, it was just a throwaway line and didn't really mean anything, except Taibbi doesn't like Kobe?

Of course, if an NBA player was going to be slammed for having three faces, or dementia at age 31, in a throwaway line, it was going to be Kobe.

For all you little pundits, if you want to know how to sum all this up . . . uh, we'll see.

Of course, this is still just the regular season. I actually think struggling helps the Lakers in the all-important humility department. What they're going through now, they did last spring in the Houston series.

In any case, they've won titles while doing wilder stuff than this.

Everywhere else, they'd call this wild. We just call it "last week."

mark.heisler@latimes.com

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