In the past few weeks, the main media has erroneously reported a supposed rift between Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant that allegedly began when Bryant’s wife Vanessa broke up Gasol’s relationship with girlfriend Silvia Lopez Castro.
While that break between Gasol and Bryant never existed, now ex-Lakers Coach Phil Jackson confirmed yesterday a disconnect between himself and a key member of the Lakers basketball operation and ownership.
Wednesday, as Jackson conducted his final press conference as Lakers coach, he was asked by FOX Sports Radio reporter David Vassegh:
“Do feel you have a stronger sense of attachment (to the Lakers) other than Jeanie (Buss, Jackson girlfriend and daughter of Lakers owner Jerry Buss) than you did with the Bulls?”
“There are people in the organization, yes, that I have an attachment to. You know I haven’t spoken to (Lakers Exec. VP, Player Personnel and son of owner Jerry) Jimmy Buss this year.
“Jerry I see occasionally and we confer. (Lakers General Manager) Mitch (Kupchak) and I have our chances to be together and we have a good relationship. Those are people in that department that I have a relationship with.
“As far as management, if you want to call it that, there’s really not a relationship with that.”
Jackson couldn’t have slighted Jim Buss any more in his comments than he did with that remark.
Longtime Lakers owner Jerry Busshas made clear on numerous occasions that Jim Buss will formally take over the basketball operation of the team when he relinquishes all control of the franchise. (Jeanie will continue to run the business operation.)
While Mitch Kupchak technically runs the Lakers basketball operation, eventually he will report solely to Jim Buss, though from Jerry’s comments last August, it sounds as if that is already the case.
During a press conference on August 17, 2010, Jerry Buss said of his role with the team’s basketball operation:
“I still talk to my son Jimmy at least twice a day. Some of those phone calls are as long as an hour. The large portion of the content of those phone calls is basketball. What we should do, what we’re doing.
“In terms of (Lakers basketball) decisions, 80% of it goes with Jim and I throw in my two cents worth here and there.”
That Jim Buss did not speak to Jackson this season is very telling when it comes to the coach’s relationship to the future, formal overseer of the Lakers basketball fortunes.
If you’re wondering why Jackson is leaving L.A., there’s your ‘Exhibit A.’
Last Friday I addressed the message board-borne rumor that Pau Gasol had recently broken up with his girlfriend, which in turn was contributing to his poor performance for the Lakers in the NBA playoffs.
(What part of “lies” and “made up” does the media not understand?)
A source who works with the Lakers confirmed to me at that time that Gasol’s girlfriend Silvia Lopez Castro most recently attended the Lakers game against the Mavericks with Gasol’s mother Marisa on Wednesday at Staples Center.
I’ve since confirmed that fact through two more Laker organization sources today.
During a L.A.-based CBS 2 report fromLakers correspondent John Ireland in Dallas on Saturday, Gasol was asked by a reporter:
“Is the chemistry okay with you and Kobe, are you guys on the same page?”
“It’s great. The chemistry has been great actually. I think there’s been a lot of talk and rumors and stories made up that I don’t know where they come from. It’s unfortunate but it comes with the situation that we’re in. People try to find reasons, throw stones at us at this time. It’s part of the deal.”
“I have to learn from this,” Gasol said. ”I have to learn that when something happens off the court, you have to keep it off the court.”
The key line from Gasol came on Saturday, when he said of the rumors, “I don’t read them, but people close to me read them … affecting people very close to me.”
If Gasol had indeed broken up with girlfriend Castro, who would he Gasol be referring to in the present tense?
If Gasol had indeed broken up with girlfriend Castro, why was Castrol at the Lakers-Mavericks game at Staples Center last Wednesday with Gasol’s mother Marisa?
As I wrote last Friday, with no obvious injury or personal issue to attribute Gasol’s mediocre playoff performance, the media always takes the easy route by reaching for something to ease their small minds.
The talk here in Los Angeles about what was wrong with Pau Gasol started the moment he scored a paltry eight points and was a non-factor in the Lakers’ Game 1 home loss to New Orleans in the first round of the NBA playoffs in mid-April.
Even before the second round Dallas series, which has seen Gasol perform adequately - at best - in consecutive home loses to the Mavericks, the L.A. media was at a complete loss to explain Gasol’s postseason performance. So far the Spaniard has been been injury-free with his demeanor also giving the media no clue as to the condition of his game.
But when you’re a main media member in Los Angeles - and beyond - charged with breaking down the Lakers in the playoffs, chalking up a performance to the unknown isn’t unacceptable. So, in the case of Gasol, cooking up a theory about his lack of production, no matter how baseless and damaging to his personal life, is a job requirement.
Beginning last month during the Lakers-New Orleans series, that’s exactly what happened on a particular Los Angeles sports radio station. More than one host on the main outlet floated the idea that Gasol’s game was suffering because his relationship with girlfriend Silvia Lopez Castro, who we introduced you to here last year, was breaking down.
The rumor spread from there to internet message boards, which naturally meant that the dubious claim would eventually find its way to bloggers who source their reporting from anonymous message board posts.
Which it did today.
I then decided to find out the truth after main media outlets - apparently unaware of the dubious posting tactics of blogs that primarily traffic in imaginary stories - began picking up those blogs ‘reports’ on Gasol’s so-called relationship breakup.
This morning and afternoon I talked to two people who work with the Lakers on a daily basis. Read more…
Larry Altman of the DAILY BREEZE here in Los Angeles was first to report this week Pau Gasol calling on Redondo Beach police officers to throw a scare into the Spanish paparazzi.
Gasol, who lives in Redondo Beach, told officers he saw the men following him before he got into his car. They tailed him with such tenacity that he was unsure if he was being stalked or if they were photographers, Redondo Beach police Sgt. Phil Keenan said.
Officers spotted the black sedan and pulled it over on Diamond Street near Catalina Avenue, just west of the police station. The occupants turned out to be credentialed paparazzi with a Spanish news agency and were allowed to leave, Keenan said.
“They had laid in wait for him for a while and then when they didn’t take any pictures of him when they had the chance and followed him after that, he thought there was something nefarious on their mind,” said Redondo Sgt. Phil Keenan.
They didn’t take any pictures of him when they had the chance? The Spanish paparazzi has never tailed Gasol in Los Angeles until now. So what changed?
Included in those emails was a lot more information about Silvia, including her last name and details of her life. I’m not going to share a lot of that stuff, but I will provide you screen shots of a reality show Silvia signed up for in 2008.
Silvia was part of the cast of the Spanish reality show CIRCUS. The premise was a competition to find the next great circus performer.
Silvia’s specialty was the trapeze, which is curious as I’m not too sure what these photos have to do with that endeavor.
She made it to the last episode, which was nationally-televised in Spain, before being voted off the show by viewers. Gasol I’m sure was aware of it, as the show was a national obsession in his home country. (For all I know that’s where he first spotted her.)
Translation of comments she made about the show in response to a fan’s question in an online chat:
Q: I write to you from Seville. My question goes for Silvia. For time, they gave program in tele, in Four, that not memory comose called, that left people who made pirouettes, was like a contest, and during the parties that you were in Seville, I realized that was a girl sounded much to me. Soon giving him returned, I put in basketMe and I saw that it was Silvia. You participated in the contest? What so was the experience? A greeting and thank you very much!
Silvia: Hello Seville! Indeed, I am Silvia and the program to which you talk about is Circus. I participated and it was a grand experience. I learned new disciplines and the experience was very positive. I remained until the last day of elimination.
The Magic were a Courtney Lee layup and a Derek Fisher miss away from being up 3-1 and having the Lakers on the ropes going into Game 5 last night, but it wasn’t to be. Then, sensing that Orlando was still reeling from giving away Game 4, the Lakers seized the momentum and left absolutely no doubt as to who the better team was in a 99-86 series-clincher at Pyramid Scheme Arena. The Lakers used a 16-0 run in the second quarter to take control, and the Magic never got closer than five after that.
(Ladies and gentlemen, the saddest NBA champion ever.)
Kobe finally got his title without Shaq, though it’s not like he did this thing alone (but averaging 32, 6, and 7 in the Finals is a pretty impressive line). The Lakers were a mediocre team until Memphis GM Chris Wallace decided to give them Pau Gasol, and the continued development of youngsters like Andrew Bynum and Trevor Ariza helped push the team to another level. Add in the rejuvenation of candy addict Lamar Odom and you have all the ingredients for a championship run.
As for the Magic, they certainly have a lot of things to be proud of, but also face a lot of uncertainty going forward. Will they find room for Hedo Turkoglu? What are they going to do with Rafer Alston? Will Dwight Howard grow into his true potential? Will Stan Van Gundy’s insane act wear thin? Was this their only window of opportunity? If Cleveland gets LeBron some help and KG comes back healthy for the Celtics, Orlando might find getting back to the Finals an impossible task in the near future.
The trophy presentation had plenty of unintentional comedy, including Jackson’s goofy “X” hat that his kids made for him,Morrison’s puzzled look as he decided whether or not he should act like he deserved a ring, and a hilariously awkward interview with Jerry Buss‘ kid, whose public speaking skills came off like a cross between your average spelling bee champion and Mark Madsen. David Stern’s backhanded obligatory compliment to the Magic for being a “very worthy Eastern Conference champion” was nice too. All in all, it wasn’t “anything is possible!” but still a very solid postgame ceremony.
Of course, the fine citizens of Los Angeles are always looking for a flimsy excuse to throw a garbage can through a window, and the “celebration” around the city extended well into the wee hours of the morning. As I’m sure you already know, Brooks was on hand outside the Staples Center and noted that the LAPD was clearly overwhelmed in trying to keep up with what was going down on the streets.
(Yeah, this is probably enough officers, right?)
Fortunately, Brooks was able to get some good shots of the good clean fun outside of Staples before things went south. Although CBS 2 says that, all things considered, this year’s riots were not on par with previous years, such as 2000 when the Lakers won the series in L.A. Still, the LAPD’s attempts to keep revelers out of downtown altogether was a massive failure, and the department should be counting its lucky stars that major issues were the exception and not the norm.
(Kobe jersey with no undershirt and jeans = not a good look for a white guy)
(”The looters went that way!”)
The LA TIMES says that some folks went into looting mode, breaking windows at a shoe store and cleaning out a convenience store. Because what better way to celebrate your team’s NBA title than with some stolen beef jerky and a chunk of glass in your thigh?
And what makes all of these people even bigger geniuses is the fact that their city and state are both completely out of money, so it’s entirely reasonable to destroy a bunch of stuff that public funds will have to replace. Look, I’ve been excited, but I can’t imagine ever feeling the urge to carry a metal barrier through the streets and ram it into things indiscriminately, like these folks who were photographed by ABC 7 in L.A.:
I’m sure we could fill page after page with entertaining photos of idiot Laker fans, but other things are happening in the world of sports, so let’s get to the links:
• The SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS says that 17-year-old baseball phenom Bryce Parker is going to skip his last two years of high school, get his GED, and play community college baseball in Las Vegas in preparation for the 2010 MLB Draft. If you think Stephen Strasburg’s going to command a boatload of money, just wait until this kid gets drafted. He’s already bombed multiple 450-foot-plus shots in a home run derby in Tampa.
• Oh, yeah, now you try and trade for Shaq, Cleveland. Way to think of that about four months too late. Perhaps it was the steep asking price of Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic that made them balk the first time around.
• How bad have the Colorado Rockies been this year? After a 7-1 win over Seattle yesterday, they’ve now won 11 games in a row, but still are a game under .500 and 10-1/2 games out of first place. Still, a nice run for the Rocks, who haven’t won this many consecutive games since September of 2007, when they won like 49 out of their last 50 on the way to the World Series. More good news for the Rockies: catcher Yorvit Torrealba’s son was returned after being kidnapped for ransom in Venezuela, and he spoke about the ordeal for the first time yesterday.
• Phil Ivey is a sick human being. He won his second World Series of Poker bracelet in a little over a week with a victory in a half Omaha/half Stud high-low event on Saturday. He was simultaneously playing a different pot-limit Omaha event in another part of the room, and fit in enough hands there to nearly make that final table. And he somehow found more time to win over $100,000 online. While the $400,000+ in prize money he has won for his two bracelets this year is nice, rumor has it that he’s won millions more in bracelet wagers with his friends and high-stakes regulars at the Bellagio. At 33, Ivey already has seven bracelets and needs just four more to equal the record held by Phil Hellmuth, Johnny Chan, and Doyle Brunson.
• You know how on WWE they always have someone get “hurt” and then carted off and dramatically loaded on an ambulance like there’s some sort of actual injury? Well, that happened to Japanese superstar Mitsuharu Misawa on Saturday night. Except it wasn’t fake. He had a heart attack during a match in Hiroshima and died at the age of 46. Misawa got his start as a character called “Tiger Mask” and was the biggest star in Japanese wrestling, reportedly on par with Hulk Hogan in the U.S. The BALTIMORE SUN has a short tribute. Here’s some footage of Misawa going at it a few years back with Samoa Joe: