Their summer of discontent gave way to an autumn of doubt, which has turned to an apparently happy holiday season.
Have L.A.'s Kobe Bryant and the Jazz's Andrei Kirilenko finally become agreeable company men? Not necessarily. But they have settled in, realizing neither team is going to trade away a maximum salary player for puka shells and pizza coupons. So both have started the season in a sharing mood, forgoing scoring opportunities for the good of their teams.
They've realized the Rolling Stones were right, you can't always get what you want so make the best of it.
Tonight at EngergySolutions Arena, the Jazz and Lakers meet for the second time this season. The Kobelinko Variety Show features a pair of former malcontents who have turned down the volume. Bryant is still raining down points, but also passing, screening and rebounding. More important, he's not talking about being traded.
Kirilenko is ahead of last year in points, assists, blocks, rebounds, minutes and steals.
They adjusted their attitudes, going from malcontents to fairlycontents, which puts them where almost everyone is with their job, right?
Bryant frightened Laker fans last summer by demanding a trade if the team didn't acquire new talent to help him get a title. He also reportedly cleaned out his locker during the exhibition season. Maybe he was just looking for his deodorant. Either way, the Lakers aren't much closer to a championship than they were before the whining began. But he's dealing with it.
Meanwhile, Kirilenko was so upset by how he was being utilized, he considered abandoning the remaining $63 million on his contract to return to Russia. But lately he's sounding like a pitchman for Alka Seltzer. Oh, what a relief it is.
"Right now, I'm changed completely," he told the media in New York. "I feel way different. It's way different. It's way different. I feel much better."
That doesn't mean either player is likely to remain quiet forever. As soon as things start getting rough during the 82-game exhaust-a-thon, temperatures rise. A.K. can be like a troublesome teen in a big family, commanding disproportionate attention. Yet Kirilenko will never be a huge problem, whether the Jazz trade him or not. He's not firing a handgun outside a strip club (Stephen Jackson), attempting to rape a nanny (Reuben Patterson), driving drunk (Cliff Robinson), fathering children with assorted women (Shawn Kemp), or brawling with fans (Ron Artest, Jackson).
He's complaining about playing time and chances to shoot the ball.
So sue him.
The man thinks he can play.
Which brings up a point: Most Jazz troubles are PG-rated anyway. Relative to other NBA teams, they act like the cast of "Seventh Heaven." For them, a controversy is when Carlos Boozer rehabs in L.A. rather than Salt Lake. It's when DeShawn Stevenson or Greg Ostertag mouths off at Jerry Sloan.
Controversy, Jazz style, is Karl Malone saying he's played his last in Utah, then coming to training camp as though nothing happened. It's Bart Kofoed decking Bobby Hansen at a New Year's Eve party. It's Deron Williams and Robert Whaley scuffling with a Nuggets fan in Park City and giving police fake names. It's Olden Polynice pretending he's a cop.
That's not to say serious things haven't happen with the Jazz Bernard King sex offense charges, Luther Wright's wild night in Tooele County, Stevenson's no-contest plea to having sex with a minor but those are rare. And a big chunk of their serious stuff occurred decades ago.
The rest of the time it's Ike Austin being too fat for Sloan's liking, Tom Chambers quitting for one day after disagreement with Sloan, Raja Bell saying the Jazz need to light the fire within and various players griping about playing time and roles.
Minutes and roles isn't this where we started?
It's unlikely the A.K. issue will completely go away unless he does. But it's also unlikely it will develop into anything more than complaining.The Jazz might do drama, but fortunately for everyone, they rarely do time.
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