The Commish Online                                                                                
All Is Lovely In La-La Land
November 4, 2003
by William K. Wolfrum

Now that we can safely proclaim Lebron James as a non-story and big fat bust following his 8-point debacle in Portland, it’s time for us here at Off The Rim to make another rash leap to judgment with the NBA season only a week old.

The Los Angeles Lakers are the greatest assemblage of basketball players in the history of humanity, and likely any other life form that dwells in our universe.

Of course, with the Lakers heading off on a four-game road trip, that assessment could change at a moments notice. This is the Internet, folks. Wildly unsubstantiated claims are the norm.

Opening up the season with three consecutive victories, however, even Jack Nicholson has reason to celebrate and find a nice 19-year-old girl to boink.

The Lakers were by far the biggest story in the off-season. First, the twin signings of Gary Payton and Karl Malone, quickly followed by Kobe’s fly getting stuck in the open position in Colorado. Lakers’ media officials dropped by the cartload from carpal tunnel cranking out so many press releases.

On the court thus far, however, it’s been a sight to behold. Sure, Lakers fans knew Payton and Malone were good, but they’ve been calloused by years of sun tanning and having Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe around.

Payton and Malone have been ridiculously good thus far, and the Lakers have played team basketball for the first time since the Showtime era.

The Lakers have six players averaging double figures, and putting up solid assist and rebound numbers:

O’Neal: 19.0 ppg, 11.7 rpg, 3.3 asp
Bryant: 18.0, 5.0, 3.0
Payton: 16.7, 5.7, 9.7
Malone: 16.3, 9.7, 4.7
Devean George: 13.3, 8.7, 3.3
Derek Fisher: 12.7, 2.3, 2.3

Add to that the best bench the Lakers have had in years: Fisher, Horace Grant, Slava Medvedenko, Luke Walton, Bryon Russell and Kareem Rush. And Rick Fox is still on the bench recovering. Is this the team that will finally go 82-0? Yes, they will. It’s guaranteed, so start the playoffs now.

There are a few glitches in the Los Angeles skyline. Shaq is as persnickety as ever, yammering about getting a new contract, complaining that Kobe needs to pass more, being a jerk with the press, etc. Of course, the next day he’s all sunshine and practical jokes and treats the media like family. This is normal Shaq behavior, and let’s face it, he can get away with it.

Then there’s Kobe. Ah Kobe, where did you go astray after crying on the bench last year after falling to the Spurs?

The rape trial shouldn’t be as big a distraction as it appeared to be at first. Kobe should get through the season, hug his championship trophy and then glide to court to face a possible 10 years.

But with the team thus far, Kobe’s been as close to a miscreant as he has ever been. He has a big tattoo on his arm to honor his wife, Vanessa. It seems Vanessa is getting A LOT of honoring these days if you check her jewelry out.

Next, he starts spouting out that he plans to opt out of his contract after this season and check out free agency. Is this the thing a guy should be saying to the team that stood by him after he publicly humiliated them? Miss Manners is probably turning in her grave right now. Unless she’s not dead. Then she’d just be turning.

Payton and Malone have been the real story so far. Both are playing brilliantly, have maturity to stay above any fray, and just want a championship ring. And if Shaq stays healthy, they’ll get it.

Stay tuned for next week’s column, entitled “Yao Ming: The greatest life form on Planet Earth.”

William K. Wolfrum is a freelance writer in Southern California.  You can reach him at