Kalani Simpson Sidelines

Kalani Simpson

Saturday, October 4, 2003

Media circus missing
the main attraction

THE satellite trucks were there. The guys from "Around the Horn" were there. "Super Bowl Wayne" was there.

Kobe Bryant wasn't there.

That wasn't even the biggest disappointment of the day at Lakers camp. For a media swarm of this magnitude I was hoping for "Triumph the Insult Comic Dog."

(Why not? He's in town. Did you catch him doing the weather on Channel 8, zinging cloud cover and doing hairspray jokes on my new hero, Howard Dashefsky? It was the greatest local TV "moment" since a peeved Joe Moore did the fake phone call to his boss live on the air.)

Was it a zoo?

No Triumph. No Kobe.

It was a petting zoo.

"Kobe's dealing with a situation, we're going to let him deal with the situation," new teammate Gary Payton would explain.

"Our situation is here on this basketball court for the Lakers."

My situation was with the horde.

Kobe or not, you can't turn down the opportunity to join a horde. They herded us into a holding pen like cattle. (It was pleasant. There was pastry.) Jason Kaneshiro estimated 60 of us. I stopped at 57. Later, Payton would say 80. Shaq guessed 90.

I'd say he was right.

There were so many, the swarm even turned on itself. The local media interviewed the national media. Los Angeles Times columnist and ESPN and Fox TV guy J.A. Adande took in the scene with a personal video camera. "Just to remember someday," he said.

It will be nothing compared to today, when Bryant has promised to show up at last.

You can tell who had been in a media horde before: They had their microphones attached to long sticks, able to reach over the rest of the pack. They had stools and stepladders so their cameras could see.

"Who's that?" someone asked, from the back row of the mob.

Phil (I think that was him) was philosophical, talking about coaches pontificating while the players were forced to stand around and listen.

Shaq (he has "34" on his shoes; I think that's the size) was ready for the storm.

"We're all going through it," he said. "All of us are going to have to talk to the media, all of us are going to have to avoid questions, run away from questions."

He used the phrase "chickens before they hatch." He said, "This is all a soap opera to me." Someone asked him how he rehabs injuries. "24-Hour Fitness," Shaq said.

It was a thrill to see Karl Malone, who has been a favorite of mine ever since he once topped off a trade-me-now tirade with: "Snatch the pebble from my hand, it is time for me to leave! Like in 'Kung Fu'!"

Yet Malone would at one point have the low of only 17 people around him (it would later more than double).

But this frenzy, this horde, this swarm, this storm, all of it was for Kobe, and Kobe wasn't there. Yet. Did his delay dilute the experience?

"No," Payton said. "Because y'all are sitting here talking to me. And I'm having a great time."

Just wait.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at


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