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Old 06-29-2007, 10:00 AM   #1
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Default Article: Riverside Press Enterprise - Lakers' Draft Day Worthy Only of Yawn

Lakers' Draft Day Worthy Only of Yawn

11:55 PM PDT on Thursday, June 28, 2007

EL SEGUNDO -- They're partying in Portland, celebrating in Seattle and smiling in Atlanta.

In Laker Land, not so much.

The NBA draft has a way of raising hopes in the league's darker corners. It's the one day that the have-nots have a chance to cash in on their ineptitude.

So lowly Portland snatches Greg Oden with the No. 1 selection, and Trail Blazers fans plot how long it will take to get to the Finals.

Struggling Seattle grabs Kevin Durant at No. 2, and the franchise imagines itself with the steal of the day, drafting the guy they dream will turn out to be his generation's Michael Jordan.

Atlanta may be a forgotten NBA outpost, but with picks 3 and 11, there may be a future for the Hawks after all.

Such joy failed to reach this dark corner of the NBA, where the Lakers haven't won a playoff series since 2004.

As expected Thursday night, the Lakers didn't do much in the way of addition, and, worse, are still worrying more about what they may be losing -- their disgruntled superstar Kobe Bryant.

The Lakers seem unwilling to grant his trade request, but that doesn't mean the problem is disappearing any time soon -- certainly not the way wide-eyed optimists imagined on Monday.

The week began with a crazy surge of electricity in these parts, news of a deal that would land Kevin Garnett in Los Angeles. The hype, of course, ran way ahead of logic, and within a day or two, talks were dead. Garnett wasn't coming and the natural high among the faithful was followed by the emotional crash.

Instead of KG, the name that fans will be mulling over today is Javaris Crittenton, a point guard from Georgia Tech who "fell" (don't they always?) to the Lakers No. 19 spot.

It begs the question as to what the team thinks of last year's first-round pick, Jordan Farmar, which General Manager Mitch Kupchak addressed without even being asked.

"I'm sure Jordan is wondering what we're doing," said Kupchak, and I suppose that means Farmar now joins Kobe's club.

At least Kupchak had something of an answer for Farmar, about how the Lakers didn't have the "luxury of picking for a certain position" with such a late spot, just choosing a talent who had dropped down on the board.

At least the Lakers weren't outshone by the Clippers. Across town, the Clips took Florida State forward Al Thornton at No. 14, a nice player by all accounts, but not the kind of high-profile player who will sell tickets, either.

Anyway, there was nothing in the way of a surprise at Lakers headquarters, except that Coach Phil Jackson showed up without his mustache and soul patch.

"I need a little sun on my lip," said Jackson, walking with a cane after recent hip surgery, but smiling.

Like Kupchak, Jackson shed little light on the Kobe Problem, suggesting that discretion would serve everyone at this point. At least he said he had been in touch with Bryant, and chose to offer some optimistic words about how last year's team was better than it finished, and he expected that positive changes are still to come.

If you were looking for clues about Bryant's fate, there weren't many. The general feeling, however, is that those pictures of Kobe that adorn the walls of their training center will remain in place. There's no percentage in the Lakers shipping him off.

After his roller-coaster media blitz a few weeks ago, followed by reports of the disturbing amateur video shoot -- "Kobe Raw" or "Kobe Gone Wild," or whatever it is -- Bryant has retreated into silence again.

For his opinion these days, the world is relying on periodic reports from ESPN's Rick Bucher, whom Bryant apparently semaphores now and then from off-camera. The latest is that he still wants out.

There was no sign of Bryant Thursday night, of course at the training center, where the media gathered for the draft-night festivities. We use the term "festivities" loosely, since the general mood of the place could be characterized by the stifled yawns.

Someone asked Kupchak if he felt there might be a letdown among Lakers followers after all of the trade talk vaporized in the last few days.

"That's out of my control," said the Lakers GM, who reiterated a point he often makes about NBA trade speculation. "A lot of the (trades) that were mentioned never happened and the one deal that was made (a Boston-Seattle trade) was never mentioned.

"It's great for basketball fans...but a lot of it goes nowhere."

Indeed, when the smoke, mirrors and rumors of the previous week turned to substance Thursday night, it was Laker Land that was nowhere central.
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