The headline took me by surprise.
“Lakers To Use Amnesty On World Peace,” it read, and I thought, wow, amnesty for illegal immigrants is a complex, serious issue. Not as serious as achieving peace in the world, but what is?
Of all the teams in professional sports, it seemed to me the Los Angeles Lakers were the least likely to participate in a provocative discussion unrelated to the status of their mediocre, seventh-seed-in-the-West playoff roster. From the moment San Antonio swept the Lakers out of the first round, it’s been two months of the most annoying reality show since some TV producers decided it would be a good idea to keep up with the Kardashians.
Would Team Turmoil re-sign free agent center Dwight Howard? Could Howard ever learn to coexist with coach Mike D’Antoni? What about the tensions between Howard and Kobe Bryant?
The fawning over Howard — it’s not enough to guarantee a basketball player $117 million for five years, he needs to know he’s cherished, because he’s got feelings — is a necessary byproduct of the free-agent era. You don’t just talk about a contract in a conference room and then do lunch. You honor your guest’s imperial presence with a candlelight dinner. You take a knee and ask for his hand.
Of course, the Lakers being the Lakers, it was inevitable that their private wooing of Howard turned into a campaign as public as a presidential race.
They bought a full-page ad in
the Los Angeles Times, begging him to stay. They also begged him to stay on billboards around Los Angeles. The billboards were imaginatively adorned with the word, “Stay.”
Howard, as you no doubt have heard by now, spurned the Lakers for the Rockets. The news broke Friday afternoon, and ESPN was on top of it with a life-as-we-know-it-will-never-be same urgency that made Edward R. Murrow’s reports from the London Blitz sound like Ryan Seacrest’s Oscar-night interviews on the red carpet.
Howard’s relocated to Houston despite the 11th-hour pleas of Bryant and Steve Nash, supper guests invited to attend the free agent’s last, uh, dinner.
Accounts of the conversation are sketchy. Did Kobe emphasize how the Lakers are built around Kobe? Was Dwight disturbed by the tone-deaf decision to turn the dinner into a obvious confrontation of teammates who’ve never been able to mesh?
What about the appetizer? When the calamari shows up lukewarm and not especially tasty, the festive-dinner mood can devolve in a hurry.
Whatever happened, the consequences were substantial. Howard’s renouncement of the Lakers’ “Stay” campaign found standouts of the once-proud franchise, both past and present, donating opinions.
Shaquille O’Neal, talking with reporters at a NASCAR race in Florida, said he expected Howard would bolt L.A., because “not everyone can handle being in the bright lights … it was a safe move to go to a little town like Houston.”
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was more circumspect, suggesting Lakers’ fans remain patient.
Bryant contributed the ultimate dis: He un-followed Howard on Twitter.
Amid this summer-circus sideshow, how could the Lakers find time to probe topics as weighty as amnesty and world peace?
And then I read the story.
“Amnesty” regards a provision that allows every NBA team to dump an unfavorable contract. The unfavorable contract belongs to, ah, yes, Metta World Peace, the forward formerly known as Ron Artest.
Never shy about sharing whatever thoughts are on his mind — and we’re talking about a mind more cluttered than the front lawn of a yard sale — World Peace was expected to respond to rumors the Lakers were prepared to release him.
World Peace’s response Monday night was to respond by not responding.
“OK,” he wrote on Twitter. “My breaking news is my oranges that I love will not be on sale at whole foods. Worst day ever!!”
If the subject turns to the notion of an afterlife, I tend to agree with the late, great singer/musician Laura Nyro, who wrote: “I swear there ain’t no heaven, and I pray there ain’t no hell.”
Nyro was wrong. There is such a thing as hell, and it’s not an eternal prison sentence for those who do evil. Hell is an equal-opportunity destination with easy access.
All it takes to get there is a rooting interest in the Los Angeles Lakers.email@example.com