Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Mitch Kupchak
For GM
Of The Year

Yeah, yeah, I know this blog isn't supposed to be about sports, but let's face it, the sun is brighter, the flowers are more fragrant, and the Southern California babes are even more sizzlin', when the Lakers are winning. And oh, how they are winning.

And, while it is true that players win championships, contrary to what Chiago GM Jerry Krauss may think, the Lakers big man is Mitch Kupchak. He traded for Odom, he drafted Bynum, Vujacic, and Farmar, and he stole Pau Gasol.

Oh yes, and most important of all, he didn't trade Kobe Bryant.

Check this out:

Looking back, the Lakers did a great job in protecting their star from himself. How do you think Kobe Bryant would be enjoying winter in Chicago right about now? It should surprise no one that Bryant has yet to officially rescind his trade demands. Nor has he apologized, to the fans or those who suffered his most egregious insults, including Jerry Buss — the guy who traded Shaquille O'Neal so that Bryant might have a franchise to call his very own; Mitch Kupchak, who had the foresight not to trade Andrew Bynum; and Bynum himself, who at 20, is that rarest of NBA commodities, a true center who will be good for years to come.

Of course, this being Hollywood, no apologies are necessary. Stars have no need of good manners until they are something less than stars.

Still, the burden of proof resides squarely on Bryant's shoulders. He understands this better than anyone. Why else would he have declined a doctor's recommendation for surgery? It's worth noting that Bryant has been playing with a torn ligament and a fractured finger in his shooting hand. Going into tonight's game against Portland, the Lakers have won eight in a row. They are 9-1 (against mostly weak competition) since Kupchak traded for Pau Gasol. At 39-17, they have the best record in the West.

Still, the real test begins next month when Bynum returns from his knee injury. It's Bryant's team. It's on him to make sure it remains a team.

This isn't about the MVP. Rather, it's what the award signifies. In his 12th NBA season, Bryant has won three championships (though never without O'Neal). He has led the league in scoring twice. He's a perennial member of the all-defensive team. He once scored 81 points in a game, more than anyone not named Wilt Chamberlain. But he has never made his teammates better. Now, if Bryant is what he has long fancied himself to be — an authentic successor to Michael Jordan — that time has come.