"We'll watch what's being said," I assured him. "We'll make allowances so you'll be able to do what you have to do and come back to the team. Don't worry."
I gave him a hug. No matter what had gone on between us in the past, he is a member of the Lakers family, and families stick together. I was sure that at least for the moment, his anger was neutralized. After we wrapped up, Kobe headed straight to see Mitch, who later told me that nothing had been neutralized.
" Shaq didn't call me this summer," Kobe told Mitch.
"Kobe, I gave you a message from him," Mitch said. "He invited you to Orlando to get away from everything."
" Shaq didn't have to leave a message through you," he said. "He knew how to reach me."
That exchange revealed the underlying contradiction in Kobe's attitude toward Shaquille. On one hand he insists he doesn't "give a s--- what the big guy does." On the other he shows he cares a great deal about what the big guy does. I decided to enlist a therapist to help me cope with what will surely be the most turbulent season of my coaching career. I selected a therapist who has dealt with narcissistic behavior in the Los Angeles public school system. He'll be right at home here.
OCT. 21 I wonder what Kobe is thinking. Since the charges were made, he has been treated well by the Lakers organization and the fans. We agreed to cover part of his private plane expenses to and from Colorado for court hearings. This will cost thousands of dollars. Kobe was unhappy with the type of plane selected; he wanted one with higher status.
OCT. 28 Why don't the two get along? One theory I have is that Shaquille makes the type of money--about $25 million a year--that Kobe will never earn due to the changes in the league's collective bargaining agreement, no matter how many MVP trophies he might collect. In fact, the word I got was that Kobe was the only player in the league who voted against the agreement because of the cap it put on salaries.
The newspapers have treated the Kobe- Shaq feud, which has reignited with a war of words over the past 72 hours, as if it were the second coming of Cain versus Abel. it's the return of star wars said the Los Angeles Times. I called the therapist. "Get them apart," he said. "Tell them what they're saying about each other is not doing anybody any good." He mentioned a psychological term for this damage-control strategy: suppression. I took Shaq aside, and Mitch found Kobe.
"We can't have this," I told Shaq. "We're on a mission, and we want nothing more in the press." Shaq was not in the mood to suppress anything. "Phil, I have a stepbrother," he said, "and when I was young, everything I did was wrong and everything he did was O.K. even though he did stuff that I could never get away with. It's the same with Kobe. I end up looking like crap, and he can do whatever he wants. I'd like to pound the chump." I empathized with Shaq but told him the team needed to put the feud behind it. He agreed to keep quiet. This was another example of the difference between him and Kobe. Ask Shaq to do something, and he'll say, "No, I don't want to." But after a little pouting, he'll do it. Ask Kobe, and he'll say, "O.K.," and then he will do whatever he wants. Against our instructions Kobe did an interview with ESPN, vowing that if he were to leave the Lakers, it would be due to Shaq's "childlike selfishness and jealousy." So much for suppression.