NBA Insider: To satisfy Kobe, Lakers face daunting offseason task
The words came with a certainty and a tone of defiance and were punctuated by a molten 1,000-mile stare so intense that it pierced the future. But that didn't matter.
The Los Angeles Lakers already had decided they had one untouchable even before Kobe Bryant, the one, declared his patience had run out in the wake of another first-round elimination. They already had been plotting the potential of a summer blockbuster trade, making Kobe Bryant's televised call to arms at the post-series news conference in Phoenix more a personal venting and, if anything actual, a hindrance.
The Los Angeles Lakers now must try to make a deal with everyone else in the league knowing they have to make a deal. Advantage: everyone else. For actual concerns, they have few options for adding another star, no matter how hard Kobe Bryant glares at the front office in his very public push for substantial change. Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom, picks and enough other players to get to the $22 million salary of Kevin Garnett. Andrew Bynum, Odom and enough salary cap ballast to reach the $19.7 million of Jermaine O'Neal.
And that's it.
The Los Angeles Lakers also could resurrect the Jason Kidd talks that fluttered about at the trade deadline, before the Nets understandably waved off rather than take back the Los Angeles low ball, or get into conversation for Mike Bibby or Ron Artest, but those would not have the same impact. As resurgent as Kidd has been this season, as much as the pressure-tested Bibby would be an upgrade at point guard, the priority is a celestial big man to balance Bryant's work from the backcourt.
That the Timberwolves say they have no plans to trade Garnett is different than saying they won't trade Garnett. The greater obstacle as the Los Angeles Lakers ponder a gamble -- aware of how all this blows up in their face if 19-year-old Andrew Bynum has a great future elsewhere as Kobe Bryant and Fill In The Blank head into retirement -- is the internal belief that Minnesota personnel boss/former Boston great Kevin McHale refuses to deal with them.
It's a Celtics-Lakers thing.
State of mind
Don Nelson, having previously opened the door to the possibility that he would leave the Warriors after one season, continues to play coy about his future. But just try finding anyone close to "Nellie" who thinks he will jump off this great ride.
It's not just the high of the energizing playoff run, either. One intimate had suggested -- even before the opening-round upset of the Mavericks -- that he loves being loved again by an organization and a city, a reference to the nasty split in Dallas and subsequent adulation for successor Avery Johnson that left Nelson feeling underappreciated. The great heights of Golden State 2007 have been as beneficial to him personally as the franchise that had been adrift.
The announcement to stay would seem an automatic, if not for the Nelson who sounded emotionally wrung out late in the regular season and said the postseason was out of reach.
If he wasn't turning 67 on Tuesday and hadn't been so noncommittal about his future, it's the same dark moment every successful coach faces. But he said almost from the outset of the three-year contract that he would be more like season-to-season, and he has tabbed assistant Keith Smart as his choice to be the next Warriors coach, so there is uncertainty.
Nelson, however, is a drama king, and he probably doesn't exactly hate the buildup. But he says he doesn't want to take the spotlight away from the playoffs, so no announcement on the future is expected until soon after the season. Heat index
The real perspective on the 2006 Heat championship came in 2007, when it went through much of the regular season on the verge of complete breakdown and officially keeled over in the playoffs by getting swept in the first round.
In the greatest indicator of how impressive the win was last season, it came with Miami months away from going to pieces. The Dwyane Wade shoulder injury was unforeseen, but it was no surprise that Shaquille O'Neal moved closer to the mobility of Fred Sanford, and even coach Pat Riley needed a sabbatical to deal with health issues, and just to get away as a lackadaisical approach for a defending champion drove him to heights of frustration.
A year after winning 16 times in the postseason, the Heat could not win once. Rallying from 0-2 against the Mavericks in the Finals always was supposed to stand forever in wounded Dallas, except that now it will have to do for the Heat eternity as well.