Not that long ago, Bryant seriously considered switching allegiance from L.A. Lore to my Paper Clips. Should his Lakers' lingering extension negotiation founder, for whatever motivation, Staples Center's stepchild has a whole lot more real (Chris Kaman, Baron Davis, Eric Gordon, Blake Griffin) and imagined (Minnesota's unprotected 2012 No. 1 pick) assets going for it today than three summers ago.
Remaining in Los Angeles was a peak priority in 2007. Should the Knicks never show up on Bryant's radar, it stands to reason the Clippers automatically will become a favored destination.
All it takes to end the above speculation, of course, is for Bryant to autograph a brand new Lakers contract. Well, half of it, anyway. Clearly, Jackson's future with the team is far more uncertain.
Seemingly, every few years or so, Jerry and Jim Buss again start to believe coaching is overpriced, if not overrated. They see Bryant doing what he pleases most of the time as it is, so why shell out $12 million (former Laker Byron Scott will jump at the job for one-third that amount) a season?
Because Jackson continues to command Bryant's respect and, when compulsory, accept his direction.
Because, once upon a time, Jackson got through to Bryant -- convincing him nobody cares or will remember how many scoring titles or other individual awards he wins. Yet fanatics and casual fans alike know Michael Jordan owns six championship rings and Bill Russell doesn't have enough fingers for his collection. (I take that back; there are no leftovers. According to Sam Jones, after the 1967-68 season, Russell's first as player-coach, he felt it would be a good idea to give out watches instead.)
And forever more, Bryant became obsessed with ascending into that elitist association.
So, who needs Jackson anymore? Bryant long ago embraced his teacher's philosophy and mastered the finer points in creating a legacy. Always exceptionally disciplined and an extreme self-motivator, Bryant never needed to be pushed or prodded toward greatness.
But nobody can push Bryant's buttons like Jackson.
Not Rudy Tomjanovich, as Jerry and Jim Buss once believed. Not Scott, who has been boys with Bryant since they were teammates.
If Jerry Buss can't see that, it will be the Lakers' loss and Sterling's fortuitous opening to pull off a major coup -- because Jackson, by all accounts, is feeling strong and categorically wants to coach next season.
I say, if Jerry Buss wants to strangle his golden goose, how's about the Bulls pick it up and run with it. Jerry Reinsdorf is a man who knows how to strangle a golden goose himself, but perhaps he's learned from his past.
Maybe folks will remember that back in 2004, the Jerry and Paxson flew out to LA and pitched the Bulls to Kobe when he was a FA. Maybe they'd see getting him and bringing back Jackson, if it took that, as a marketing wet dream to return the Bulls to the big time status they were at 12 years ago. I think, beyond anything else, they've got more to offer than the Clip show.