With Phil Jackson and Lamar Odom out, Kobe one year older, and CP3 playing in Lob City…the Lakers might very well be on the ropes, but those hoping L.A. might take another half step back as Kobe Bryant deals with his dissolving marriage, will likely be disappointed according to Jason Kidd.

“Kobe’s a warrior, I mean, I dont’ see his game coming down, I think he’ll handle it professionally.”

I asked Kidd about it at practice this morning for two reasons.   He played with Kobe on Team USA so he knows him, and Kidd went through an unfortunate semi public divorce as well in 2007.

It’s fascinating to me because when the Lakers fall off the upper echelon in the NBA it’s big news, and all respect to Kidd but I think we are about to see it.  When Bryant was in the thick of the Eagle Colorado mess, the 2003-2004 season, his per game scoring average dropped 6 points, they lost to the Pistons in the finals, and the divide between him and Shaq had become so big that O’neal never played another game for the Lakers.   All coincidences?  Kobe might be a warrior, but there are some things that no amount of mental toughness can overcompensate for.  And unless Andrew Bynum can stay healthy and fully develop, the Mavericks biggest challenge for a WC title will likely come from OKC, Memphis, or San Antonio.

Do I need to mention what happened the last time Phil quit and Kobe lost a sidekick?   Ok I already did, so admit it, Lakers are done until some other fledgling franchise gets talked into trading them their best player.

Brendan Haywood, Under or Overvalued?

I don’t think I’ve ever been more confused about Haywood.   A player I’ve considered to pretty good in today’s NBA, and not just because the position is as lean as ever.

He is one of the better centers in the league, but didn’t start last year.  His defense against Portland and OKC might have been the difference in those series.  The only other two guys on the roster who can play the 5 are name Mahinmi and Bust-o.  But hes’ not officially the starter?

I had a Talk with Shawn Marion Wednesday in between segments at the Fan Sports Lounge.   He told me to make sure I give Brendan Haywood his props for being a huge reason they won the title, and said he’s capable of picking up the slack left by Chandler.  He really made me realize, Dallas got their rings because they got better play overall from the center position, not just because of the impact Chandler made.   It looks that way because he was last to join.

So, here I am at practice, prepared to reconsider Haywood as a potential major cog for the attempt at repeating.  Haywood’s name came up, and Coach Carlisle said he’s not sure if he’ll be in the starting lineup.   What??!!  So I queried, if not him…are you going small or is he just saying that to motivate Haywood, because Mahinmi and Wright (Bust-o) aren’t ready.  At the time I asked it, it felt like an awkward moment but I couldn’t believe the assembled media was letting Rick off the hook so I had to ask it (common theme).

Anyway, his answer was, at this point he has to assume Haywood will start but nothing is set in stone.   Translation, Haywood ain’t a self starter and I can’t say he’s the starter or he might not compete in practice.   Which also happens to  be the main reason he has not realized his potential outside of a contract year and their playoff run,  appears to drag his lip when he’s a bench player, and is still considered the Mavs most likely target for Amnesty if they decide to use it.

Paging Deshawn Stevenson, Deshawn Stevenson to the AAC.

Still waiting to hear where he’ll end up.  I think the Mavericks could really use him but for some reason they don’t see him as crucial.   Maybe Dirk and Jason Kidd should go lobby the coaching staff to include Stevenson like they did last year in the regular season, and playoffs.

I’ve seen a lot of playoff games and Finals over the years, and it’s my opinion that on a team with a superstar scoring player, defensive qualities like Stevenson shows are more crucial than the inconsistent offensive skills Vince Carter is showing at this point in his career.   I’m not hating on Vince and I’m excited he’s here, I just strongly believe that position needs a better defensive option.  And btw, this knee tendonitis thing that reportedly cleared up magically Thursday night, is going to force him to sit out more than a few games and practices.     If it’s a problem in camp, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon, especially with this schedule.

On nights that it is bad, Carlisle will have Terry, West, Roddy, and Dominique Jones at his disposal.  Terry is good offensively but is not a stopper. Delonte West is a good defender as long as the other guy isn’t too big, but will also be needed at pg a lot, Dojo is likely not ready yet, and I’m pretty sure Roddy is still trying to figure out what all the lines on the court mean.

Before we get the “Deron and Dwight to DFW campaign” in full gear, let’s go ahead and bring Deshawn back for one year, and apologize for that ridiculous public intoxication arrest while we’re at it.

If you see me beer me.