The question was posed politely to Kobe Bryant, but Kobe Bryant is not about meandering to the point. He prefers the direct route and, as he's done throughout his career on the court, he'll take you there himself in an interview if you're not prepared to do it on your own.
So when a reporter seated at his post-game interview session bashfully offered an inquiry about whether he thinks the Knicks look like they need another star, Kobe shot back, "Is that your way to ask me about the Melo stuff?"
Well, since you brought it up . . .
But when reminded that his Lakers were part of the rumors, Kobe quickly dismissed it. "Nah, don't start with that ---," he said, pretty much endorsing something I had heard from two different sources over the last few days: not only were the Lakers not interested in trading Andrew Bynum for Carmelo, but Kobe wasn't pushing for a trade for Melo, either.
And yet Kobe and Carmelo are close. In fact, of the Redeem Teamers, Kobe might have been closest with Melo and the two have talked regularly about this ongoing drama. So who better to know what would be the best end result?
"Who we kidding?" Bryant then said, well aware there is actually a debate about how much the Knicks are willing to give up to complete a trade with Denver. "We're talking about Carmelo Anthony. Let's not get crazy. Carmelo Anthony's a bad boy. You figure it out."
Kobe, like Run D.M.C. in "Peter Piper", didn't mean bad meaning bad, but bad meaning good.
And in those words, Kobe seemed to say: are you really going to pass on Carmelo Anthony because you want to hold onto Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and whomever else?
Kobe even took at shot at Gallinari, whom he has praised in the past, at the end of his interview session when a member of the Italian media asked if he said anything to Gallo in Italian (remember, Kobe grew up in Italy and speaks Italian).
"Yeah," Bryant replied, "I said, 'What the ---- are you doing trying guard me?"
* * *
* -- Kobe isn't the only Laker who seems to be pushing the Knicks to get a trade done for Carmelo. Ron Artest, who often talks about his desire to see the Knicks as a winning franchise again, said, "I hope they get him."
Artest last year practically pleaded for a star to sign with the Knicks as a free agent and help the franchise, but pointed out that some players are afraid of New York because of the media pressure that comes with the territory. Amar'e Stoudemire seems to be handling it well so far, though he's still enjoying a bit of a honeymoon.
* -- Wilson Chandler at least knows something about his future: wherever he will be after the trade deadline, he'll be represented by Happy Walters. Chandler said after the game that he's decided to sign with Walters, who also represents Amar'e Stoudemire and Shawne Williams. The move isn't official yet, but Chandler sounded settled on it. Chandler last month fired agent Chris Luchey, who represented him from the time he declared for the NBA Draft in 2007.
* -- Timofey Mozgov, who had seven points and 11 rebounds in 29:20, spoke in awe of his first real experience against Pau Gasol. "He's so long," Mozgov said. "Not just his height but his arms and even his hands." We spoke about a few traits that Gasol has mastered, especially keeping the ball high, which is something Mozgov noted. He also said he liked his quick release on the turnaround, which he mimicked with a smile in the locker room. But what remained the most impressive thing Mozgov came away with from the game was Gasol's size and one other notable factor: "He's very strong," Mozgov said. "You can't tell on television, of course, or even when you're looking at him, but he's very, very tough. Very strong."
* -- Got a passionate email from a fan in Seaford, L.I. named Matt Bode, who attended the Knicks-Lakers game and was outraged by the boistrous support the Lakers received by the crowd at the Garden. "I want MSG to be a palce opponents fear, not relish in," Bode writes. "And that starts with our fans and our pride. Knicks fans have endured enough and we deserve better. But we also have to BE better. I know New Yorkers are loyal, but is it too much to ask them to be loud???
Well Matt, Kobe has a reply for you: Lakers fans are all over the country and when they make their one visit a year to New York, their fans make the effort to be there.
"Unless they choose who they still tickets to," he said, "it ain't going to change much."
You should know, Matt, that at Staples Center, there is a similar contingent of Knicks fans who are just as vocal. They just haven't had as much to be vocal about in a long time.
* -- While Danilo Gallinari has been excellent from the free throw line this season (89.1 percent; he's hit 22 straight), what has happened to his three-point touch? He went 0-for-6 from downtown in the game and is now 3-for-26 from beyond the arc in his last five games. He hasn't hit two threes in the same game since he was 4-for-7 against Detroit on Jan. 30. He is shooting 34.5 percent from three-point range this season, which isn't terrible, but is below his standard from last season (38.1 percent), when he attempted 488 threes, which is the fourth-most in franchise history for a single season. This season, Gallinari has put up just 229 threes, which is third on the team, behind Felton (260) and Chandler (233).
* -- Phil Jackson admitted feeling some nostalgia when he arrived at the Garden for what could be his last visit here as a coach. He said when he rode up to the fifth floor in the frieght elevator, he thought one thing: "It doesn't smell like elephants."
That was a great reference that not everyone, especially those who are new to the place, would understand. Jackson is referring to the time when the circus is in town, which used to be every spring.
"I actually was thinking about the playoff games, the number of playoff games with the Bulls and Knicks," Jackson said. "And that time is the time the elephant smell is in the building. It was always a pleasure."
* - The Melo Effect? Stat to consider going into Saturday's game against the Nets at The Rock: Since Jan. 19, when Mikhail Prokhorov announced the Nets were ending their negotiations to trade for Carmelo Anthony, the Nets have gone 7-6, while the Knicks have gone 4-8.