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6.16 The Cooler

Day 1 of the offseason, Kobe is still the headliner

By 06.16.09
Kobe Bryant (photo. Chris Sembrot)

Kobe Bryant (photo. Chris Sembrot)

As expected, you couldn’t get away from Kobe Bryant yesterday. In fact, if you have any Orlando Magic fans in your life, you might wanna have them stay away from the Internet or any sports TV/radio stations for the rest of the week. The fallout from Kobe’s first “solo” NBA championship has so far revolved around two questions: What is Kobe’s place in history? and What’s next for Kobe and the Lakers? As for the first question, it’s almost impossible to discuss Kobe right now without talking about Michael Jordan, but one of our writers thinks Mamba’s fourth ring puts him more in company with Derek Jeter … And what’s next for the Lakers? Predictions for the 2010 Finals are already rolling in, and majority opinion seems to be this L.A. squad can definitely repeat if they re-sign Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza. But that may only be realistic if Kobe opts out of his $23 million contract and takes less money to make room under the cap. And this is where the fat Andrew Bynum extension does that Chinese Water Torture thing on the temple of every Lakers fan. Any chance Kobe takes a pay cut to keep a championship team intact? … Then there’s Phil Jackson. We suggested a few days ago that Phil might retire after getting his 10th ring, and Charles Barkley repeated it after Game 5, that he doesn’t think Phil is coming back. One thing Phil said in the post-championship press conference that stood out to us was that he doesn’t have the same energy to motivate guys players that he did 10 years ago, and that he’d put it on the Lakers to largely motivate themselves. That sounds like a guy who’s very near the end of the road. And with a very good claim to “Best Coach Ever” status now, who would blame Phil for walking away and making a ton of money writing books and doing corporate speaking? … Hedo Turkoglu probably isn’t coming back to Orlando; his agent confirmed that he’s opting out and testing the market. Hedo’s an interesting case. He’s not a #1 and doesn’t even fit the traditional #2 mold, but he’s been the guy running Orlando’s offense in crunch time and has plenty of clutch shots under his belt to show for it. Will Hedo get more offers of decent money from the contenders, or All-Star money from some Lottery teams? … Bill Laimbeer is looking for an NBA coaching gig. He resigned as head coach of the WNBA’s Detroit Shock yesterday — less than two weeks into their regular season — saying he couldn’t totally focus on the job because his eye was wandering toward the NBA. Laimbeer won three WNBA titles in six years, and will be replaced by Rick Mahorn on the Shock bench. As for his NBA prospects, any chance Laimbeer fits the “must be a former head coach” requirement that Minnesota supposedly put on Kevin McHale‘s search for a top assistant? How long before Timberwolves practices and film sessions would be interrupted by fights between McHale and Laimbeer? … Monday was the deadline for NBA Draft early entrants to pull their names out of the hat. Georgia Tech PF Gani Lawal, Maryland PG Greivis Vasquez and Notre Dame PF Luke Harangody are among those headed back to school, while Wake Forest PG Jeff Teague, St. Mary’s PG Patrick Mills and Kentucky SG Jodie Meeks are staying in. Texas A&M forward Chinemelu Elonu is also staying in, but he might as well start converting his U.S. dollars into Lithuanian litas right now. Check out the entire list here … And don’t look now, but Tyler Hansbrough is moving up the draft board. Widely projected to go in the back-end of the first round, Hansbrough has apparently impressed the Nets, who have the 11th pick, and the Bobcats, who pick 12th … After calling Ricky Rubio “all hype” last week, Brandon Jennings pulled back in an interview yesterday. “I think I got a little carried away with it,” Jennings said after a workout with the Knicks. “He’s not all hype. The kid has more experience than everybody in this draft, he’s been playing [pro ball] since he was 14. He’s a great player.” … We’re out like basketball for a few months. You stay classy, Los Angeles


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