It's always amazing and amusing when players on bad teams are holding team meetings to air out their differences – at midseason.
Amazing that nobody picked up on the problems the first 41 games, especially as much as they all huddle.
Amusing when it's the Los Angeles Lakers.
Let's face it: Watching the Lakers look as clueless and dysfunctional as a royal family is a hoot.
(For the Magic and their fans, it's a guilty pleasure.)
Nobody summed up L.A.'s shockingly brutal play better than their coach, Mike D'Antoni, who said:
"We've got an All-Star team out there. Have you ever watched an All-Star Game? It's God-awful because everybody gets the ball, they go 1-on-1 and then they play no defense. That's our team. That's us. We're an All-Star team, and we haven't learned there's a pecking order."
Depending on whom you believe, Bryant has asked Howard at least twice if he had a problem playing with him and challenged him to speak up, but Dwight did not. He's as confrontational as Canada.
Truth is, every Laker has a problem playing with Kobe. But teammates fear he'll kill them if they aren't happy being designated rebounders.
Howard said later that Bryant never asked him about essentially being a ball-hog -- and added he had no issue with Kobe. A lie of Manti Te'o proportions if there ever was one.
Bryant only respects teammates and foes alike if they fire back at him.
Howard got himself into this predicament when he didn't accept a trade by the Magic (perhaps to L.A.) late last season, which would have provided an escape route to free agency and maybe Brooklyn.
So we've already identified our top NBA story at midseason. Here are the others:
Staples Center's Other Tenant: Anyone ever think that the best team in Los Angeles would not be the Lakers? And it wouldn't be even close? All hail the Clippers, forever the red-headed stepchild. The Clips are not only lovable, but legitimately good with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
The Leprechaun Must Be On Leave: The sagging Celtics have joined the Lakers in the collapse of great basketball empires. The first Big Three of the modern era is kaput. The Celtics miss Ray Allen more than he misses them. Doc Rivers became a master at pushing buttons, but now gets no response.
Spurs Stir Controversy: Wait, the Spurs? The league's most boring team made headlines when Coach Gregg Popovich sent four players home to rest instead of playing the Miami Heat, disappointing ticket-holders and infuriating David Stern. Not all the cat-naps in the world can get San Antonio to the finals.
MVP At the Turn: LeBron James, with Kevin Durant closing fast. James is averaging career highs in field-goal percentage and 3-point shooting. He can be a beastly defender, and punish you inside if he's in the mood. He's a living, breathing, traveling Hall of Fame exhibit.
The End Game: The Heat are like prisoners etching the wall to count down the days to the playoffs. When so moved, they can play smothering defense. If the Heat think playing 82 games is monotonous, I got news for the defending champs. They're going to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder again in the NBA Finals.
Celtics linked to J.J.?
The Boston Celtics are apparently hot after Magic SG J.J. Redick, according to another report (this time ESPN.com).
Unless another team gets involved in the trade, the Celts don't have much to offer for Redick.
Any deal would have to include Boston's 2013 first-rounder. And if I'm the Magic, I'm asking for PG Avery Bradley, a 22-year-old who can defend.
Doesn't sound realistic --- unless the Magic have decided not to re-sign Redick.
Boston, itself on the cusp of rebuilding, also doesn't appear to be the coziest situation for J.J. Things could change at the trade deadline, but the Celts are stocked at shooting guard. Jason Terry, 35, has two more years ($10 million total) and Courtney Lee, 27, three more years ($16 million.)
Benefit of the doubt?
If Dwight Howard thought last year's all-star weekend here was uncomfortable, the Feb. 17 edition in Houston expects to be a far worse experience.
Howard deflected much of the criticism in Orlando after he had asked for a trade earlier in the season.
But this time, given the Lakers' woes and his baffling performances, the usual all-star mood won't be so festive.
Some writers are even saying he shouldn't have been voted an all-star starter by fans --- an exaggerated view, to me, that has been colored by the last 14 months of drama. Eight-plus seasons of mostly stellar play and stellar citizenship, and he receives little benefit of the doubt.
Hard to believe how quickly his popularity has faded.
This 'n' That
For those who have been asking, given my unbridled belief in Magic C Nik Vucevic's future, his name is pronounced, "VOOCH-a-vitch." P.A. announcers across the league have butchered it all season. …The Magic weren't interested in swapping Howard for Brooklyn C Brook Lopez. They made the right move staying clear from Andrew Bynum, but Lopez is having a career year and should have been added to the East all-star team. ... Trade that makes sense for both teams: Lakers send PF Pau Gasol back to Memphis for Zach Randolph and G Tony Allen. Gasol can play with brother, Marc, giving the Grizzlies two 7-foot siblings. The Griz also can save money, and maybe the Lakers save their season. … Remember, it's VOOCH-a-vitch!