Bryant should shut his mouth and play ball

As if this is a newsflash or something, Kobe Bryant wants out of Los Angeles and his Lakers uniform.

Bryant doesn’t like it that the Lakers aren’t the Spurs, or the Suns, or the Mavericks, or anything like a team that could contend for the NBA championship. What really rips Bryant is that the Lakers aren’t much better than the Warriors or the Clippers, teams that are only fringe contenders to even make the playoffs.

So Bryant, upset that the Lakers’ braintrust can’t field a more competitive team, wants out. He’s still seething from the Lakers choosing not to give up on 19-year-old center Andrew Bynum and trade for Jason Kidd and his 97-year-old knees.

While Kidd would have made the Lakers a legitimate threat to at least be in the conversation for making a run at a title for a little while — Kidd’s the best in the league this side of Steve Nash at making the players around him better — Bryant needs to shut his trap and play ball.

Sure, it would be nice to be in the running every year for a championship. Unfortunately, what Bryant and others like him (read: Yankees fans) don’t understand is that sports just don’t work that way. Some years you struggle, most years you are middle of the road, and, if you’re lucky, a couple of times you contend.

Bryant has always gotten what he’s wanted in Lakerland. He actually did L.A. a favor by feuding with an aging Shaquille O’Neal and drawing a line in the beach sand. Sure, Shaq won another title with Miami (mostly because of Dwayne Wade), but the Heat caved and gave him a contract extension that they’ll be regretting for, well, as long as the contract runs. The Lakers needed to move on in that sense, and did.

The problem is, the Western Conference is ridiculously good, and if you’re not going to rebuild, then refining is your only approach, and that’s tough to do when the league’s best teams are all in your conference.

But you know what, that’s not the real reason Kobe should keep quiet. Not long ago, he had this serious episode in Golden, Colo., in a resort hotel room. And though the case eventually dissipated, the Lakers stood by their man, with owner Jerry Buss sending his private jet for Bryant’s use to and from court appearances to games. The Lakers could have dumped Bryant quicker than the Falcons dumped Michael Vick — his allegation was far more severe — but didn’t.

Some guys would be forever indebted to an organization for doing that.

Others, I guess, ask for a trade once the team has its rough stretch.

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