Kobe shows off his soccer skills [video]

NBA all-star guard Kobe Bryant shows off his soccer skills during halftime of a friendly between Manchester United and Barcelona at FedEx Field.

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Should the Lakers pursue Dwight Howard?

Orlando Magic’s center Dwight Howard (L) drives against Los Angeles Lakers’ center Andrew Bynum during first half NBA basketball action in Orlando, Florida, February 13, 2010. REUTERS/Kevin Kolczynski (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Kevin Pelton of ESPN says not so fast. (Insider subscription required, unfortunately.)

Should Howard make it clear that he wants to leave Orlando when his contract expires, the Lakers will be a logical trade destination because of the bright lights of L.A. and their ability to offer Andrew Bynum to the Magic. In the long run, making Howard the latest superstar center to wear Forum blue and gold would be a way for the Lakers to prepare for a future in which Kobe Bryant is no longer the team’s go-to player. Still, the transition would be painful in the short term, depending on what the Lakers had to deal in such a scenario.

Behind Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, post depth has long been a weakness for the Lakers. To get Howard, they’d likely have to surrender two of their three stalwarts. The Lakers have been able to survive for stretches without Bynum by playing Gasol and Odom heavy minutes, but that has taken its toll over time and going with just two reliable big men for an entire season would be difficult.

There’s a saying… don’t cut off your nose to spite your face. And that’s exactly what the Lakers would be doing if they did not seize the opportunity to trade for Dwight Howard, whether it costs some combination of Bynum, Gasol or Odom or not.

Howard represents a life after Kobe for the Lakers and giving up front court depth is a small price to play for that long-term positioning. Bynum would almost surely be involved in any potential deal for Howard, so the question is whether or not it’s worth giving up Gasol or Odom to get the Magic to bite. To me, that’s a no-brainer. Make the deal and then sign someone like Kurt Thomas to backup your big men.

Depth on the front line is hard to come by but so are bona fide franchise centers. Do the deal.

Kobe plays in exhibition quarter in Manila [video]

Kobe has a few nice moments in the quarter, but the best thing about the video is the energy of the crowd when they realize that he’s going to play.

Kobe Bryant decides to play in the exhibition game between UAAP-NCAA All-Stars vs. Smart Gilas Philippines ; 8-minute quarter.

Are the Lakers Bynum’s team now?

Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum (L) and guard Kobe Bryant (R) sit on the bench in the final minutes of a loss to the Dallas Mavericks during Game 2 of the NBA Western Conference semi-final basketball playoff in Los Angeles, California May 4, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Roland Lazenby of HoopsHype says that with Jim Buss’ emergence in basketball operations, Andrew Bynum is the centerpiece of the Laker franchise.

Fans will discover they’re witnessing the new Lakers, the ones run by Jim Buss and built to cater in every facet to seven-footer Andrew Bynum, a nice enough 23-year-old kid with a dubious medical past and an even more suspect future.

Yes, aging star Kobe Bryant will still be a part of the equation, but he was put on notice over the summer when Jim Buss hired new coach Mike Brown without so much as a brief discussion with Bryant.

The message is clear: Brown is Bynum’s coach, and the team belongs to the young center as well.

Why did the Lakers hire Brown?

As for offense, Bynum has long made noise that he wants to be more of a priority. Brown was hired after touting his experience as an assistant coach with San Antonio’s big guns team that featured Tim Duncan on offense.

Bryant said little publicly after Brown’s hiring, but he did make it clear that he and Pau Gasol would remain the first two options in the Lakers offense.

Bynum “will have to fall in line,” Bryant has been quoted as saying.

There is trouble brewing in L.A. if the younger Buss wants to feature Bynum over Bryant and Gasol. Kobe does not look like he’s prepared to go quietly into the dark night, and the Lakers will be his team as long as he’s putting on the jersey.

But it appears that instead of trading Bynum for another piece to the championship puzzle, the Lakers are going to build around him. This would be fine if he didn’t have a long, troublesome history of injury, but he does. Can a franchise really depend on those knees?

Worst case scenario is that the Lakers hold onto Bynum and he has more knee trouble after Kobe and Gasol’s age drastically impacts their productivity. The Lakers could be in for some lean years, especially if they recommit to Bynum after his contract expires. But the Lakers are one of the league’s two marquee franchises (along with the Knicks), so it shouldn’t be too difficult to reload, assuming the new salary cap rules allow it.

Don’t sleep on the Black Mamba [video]

Kobe Bryant dunks twice…hard…first on Emeka Okafor and then on Carl Landry.

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