On Tuesday afternoon, the media horde descended upon the Los Angeles Lakers practice facility for the obligatory “exit interview” process. It’s that last team event of the season, spread over a couple days (free agent to be Antawn Jamison had surgery instead), before the players depart what will be a long offseason. Just envision the closing scene of “Ocean’s 11″ without the dancing fountain, emotional music or smug – We Beat The World – grins.
This is a Lakers squad that will not soon be forgotten. From the early-season dismissal of Mike Brown through myriad injuries, the death of Dr. Jerry Buss and the public outcry for the return of Phil Jackson, There was no shortage of intrigue, outrage and subplots to dissect in local television, print and radio coverage.
The exit interviews shan’t provide much in the way of clarity. Kobe Bryant, who offered the home crowd it’s only spot to cheer Sunday when he appeared court side on crutches, speculated that Dwight Howard would return. Bryant smartly acknowledged the large financial angle to the story (TE Lakers are the favorites in Vegas). He’d also like to have Paul Gasoline back, but the big “A” for amnesty is still floating on the wind.
Howard was scheduled to meet with the media as I wrote this, and I don’t expect to get much more than “I need time away” or “frustrating” when he answers questions about the year just past, the future or his ejection from Game 4. I wonder if anyone will ask about Bryant’s arrival court side on Sunday …
Of course, there remains the issue of this team’s overall composition (read: age) and Mike D’Antoni’s future in LA. He’s received the vote of confidence in the face of “We Want Phil!” chants and it’s hard to dismiss the team’s 2nd-half surge to make the playoffs, the horrid four-game sweep by Popovich’s Spurs notwithstanding.
I wonder whether Mike Brown’s deal with Cleveland makes it easier to part with D’Antoni. But I then wonder aloud — Who would be better? — and — Would a full offseason change things?
As the NBA Playoffs drift toward the second round, the top storylines remain in Tinseltown.