It was in November after the Lakers had defeated the Knicks at Staples Center when a couple of us New York writers asked Kobe Bryant to stop for a chat after being peppered with Thanksgiving questions -- "Who carves the turkey in the Bryant home?"...(seriously) -- from the LA press.
After going over the usual subject (playing in New York, the Knicks 2010 plans and LeBron James), I posed a hypothetical that asked how he would weight things if he were in LeBron's situation.
"I know what you're asking," Kobe said with a grin, "but I'm not going to answer that one."
It seemed innocent enough to ask him mainly because, though Bryant also has an opt-out this summer, it's all but given he will re-sign with the Lakers. Right?
Then came this story from HoopsHype, written by Roland Lazenby, who is hardly a pimple-faced graduate student playing with trade machines in his parents' basement. He's written a few dozen books, several involving subjects such as the Lakers, Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant. So we'll consider his resources are at least reasonable when he cites that "overtures have been made" between Jackson and James.
As the story goes, LeBron could go to the Lakers (since they don't have salary cap space, we figure it would have to be a sign-and-trade scenario in which the Cavs are agreeable to get pieces such as Andrew Bynum...try to contain your excitement, Cleveland) and then Bryant is the one who becomes the prized unrestricted free agent looking for a new home. [We'll dismiss the idea that the two could be teammates. Only as muppets do we see these alpha dogs ever working together over an 82-game schedule.]
Lazenby could be doing Jackson's dirty work here, causing a stir that puts some heat on Lakers owner Jerry Buss to re-sign him. Jackson, like Bryant, has yet to sign an extension and regardless of what Buss does, Jackson plans to coach next season somewhere. In fact, one possible destination Lazenby offers is New York, in the seat of Jackson's most respected mentor, Red Holzman.
Let's remind everyone here that Mike D'Antoni still has three more years left on his contract. It is almost impossible to imagine the Knicks would dump D'Antoni after he signed on for a plan that involved slashing payroll and losing for two seasons for a rebuild in 2010. But I'll allow that D'Antoni has a shrewd agent in Warren LeGarie, who may work out an escape for his client to take the Chicago Bulls job -- which was on the table for him in April 2008 -- just to get away from the New York media. No one would want to be around this place if the 2010 Plan yielded an unimpressive return.
But that's getting way ahead of a conversation here that has already gone too far.
So if you follow the math, the possible results include:
-- Kobe opts out, Lakers work out sign-and-trade for LeBron, who agrees only after Buss offers Jackson an extension. Kobe signs with Knicks. Nike is pleased because they have their two main stars in two major markets.
-- Lakers decide not to offer Jackson an extension. Knicks work out buyout for D'Antoni, who leaves to coach Bulls (who fire Vinny Del Negro) and hire Jackson. LeBron leaves Cleveland to join Jackson in New York. Nike is pleased because they have their two main stars in two major markets.
-- Lakers win their second championship and Buss extends Jackson, Kobe. LeBron leaves Cleveland to play for the Knicks. Nike is pleased because they have their two main stars in two major markets.
-- LeBron wins championship, stays in Cleveland. Lakers lose in Finals and decide to keep Kobe, Jackson. Nike is pleased because they still have their main star in a major market and LeBron has a championship. And because he signed a three-year deal, he'll be a free agent again in 2013.
I'll add this last option, since it wasn't mentioned anywhere else:
-- Jackson decides it's time to leave the Lakers. Accepts ridiculous, unprecedented contract from new Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov. Then lures LeBron to Brooklyn. With Jackson gone, Bryant re-considers his future in LA and, as a free agent, signs with D'Antoni and the Knicks.
Imagine that, New York.