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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Trust The Laker Media?

Anonymous responded to my blog yesterday in which I acknowledged the work of many reporters and media figures covering the Lakers:

"Are you kidding me that Bresnahan doing any good covering the Lakers/Kobe? He tried to undermine Kobe as a player and a person starting from about the 2nd half of 2004-2005. Remember that so-called Atkins' GM comment?

"Brad Turner sided with Shaq and after the trade he was biased against the Lakers/Kobe. I remember his Malone incident witness stuff and all the Kobe selfish "stories."

"No need to sugarcoat some spinning and twisting of your peers or even making stuff up. They villified Kobe and looked down the Lakers, Buss, Mitch, etc.

"Some of them may jump back on the bandwagon, but they lost any credibility to us fans."

Atkins made the GM comment. The reality is that it reflected the attitude of elements on the team, at that time. I think it was good reporting on Bresnahan's part. It's not a reporter's job to tell fans what they want to hear but what he observes.
I myself quoted Tex as saying that Kobe had tried too hard to be a leader in that season after Shaq left, and as a result, Kobe lost some of his teammates.
There is no question that following the breakup of the team, Bryant, Buss, Kupchak and other figures came under intense criticism, perhaps quite a bit of it unwarranted. But it's not hard to understand the frustration of both reporters and the public at the breakup of a championship-caliber team.

Do reporters get overdue influence from Phil?

You bet. It's incredibly difficult not to be influenced by Phil (or any coach), but especially Phil. That's where reporters get the bulk of their information. Phil's success makes him a powerful factor in terms of information.
There was a time when most of the reporters in L.A. were turned against Kobe. Kobe played a part in this himself. But I've reported these issues.
I guess I don't view the situation so severely now (I did then, and reported those facts with some indignation), because I know firsthand how seductive Phil's manipulation can be. Anyone who reads my work knows I keep Phil on a short leash. He's a very fine coach, but extremely manipulative in terms of the media.

So I tend not to hold grudges against reporters. It was a story they had to cover. They did the best job with the information available at the time and with Phil manipulating the information as he did. The reporters have moved on from that story and so have I.
Phil has even acknowledged some of his shortcomings in regard to the entire period. He hasn't come clean on everything, but he's done enough perhaps to heal the Lakers. He's come back to the job and dealt with Kobe Bryant in a straight-forward manner. I've documented how Phil did not do that during his first five years with the team, how he left Bryant out of the equation.

I tend not to blame the messengers when the primary figures — Phil, Shaq and Kobe — all share blame for the breakup.

On the other hand, I respect your right as a member of the reading public to hold all reporters, including me, to a high standard.
In fact, I think you, the reader, are the critical, most important, element in the equation. As reader and fan, you're the final judge of all of our actions.
In the end, you set the standards, and we all must meet them, or attempt to.
So, my response to your comments is, Thank you for making them. You have a valid point. And thank you for commenting on my blog. Your comments raise an interesting point of debate. And I'm not going to spend too much time defending certain reporters you've criticized. They need to answer for themselves. That's because you've raised valid issues.

As for me, I enjoy the media coverage of the Lakers. Like you, when I sense something out of line, I speak up.

That's the great thing about free speech. It works for all of us.

If you can find it.

Roland Lazenby is the author of The Show, The Inside Story of the Spectacular Los Angeles Lakers in the Words of Those Who Lived It, published by McGraw-Hill.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent blog. Keep up the good work

2:34 PM  
Anonymous Craig W. said...

I purchased The Show last Dec and read it in one sitting. A Laker bible.

I store your blog on my favorites and really enjoy all your comments. However, I must also side somewhat with 'anon'.

You yourself described the Phil/Shaq/Kobe situation. After Eagle, every (I didn't ever read any exceptions) reporter threw Kobe under the bus. All I wanted in LA was for one or two voices to raise some questions and not assume Kobe was the font of all evil. I think this was the point 'anon' was making.

Incidentally, I think it is worthwhile to watch the D. Wade propaganda to see if the same thing doesn't happen to him if he has any mistakes or shortcomings. I think that is the problem with the ESPN style of reporting sound bites.

3:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry for going anon with this, but I don't want to be on the record ripping this guy, because I like him as a columnist.

If you get angry at Brad Turner over anything, make it over his phone-in "work" with this year's Lindy's. I understand he has a short time to put together breakdowns on several teams, and that he isn't sure about what personnel moves will flesh out by the time the thing goes to press, but his work this year was lazy and thin. Stood out amongst all the great team previews. The Houston preview was especially bad, he repeated himself endlessly and didn't really provide much insight.

And it's not like I have some grudge against him. I've always liked his columns and generally agreed with his viewpoints. Even liked his lucky strike with predicted Amare as the 2002-03 ROY.

8:27 AM  
Blogger Kurt said...

You've said this before Roland, but I think people don't really understand how much a big personality like Phil can impact a reporter's "unbiased" coverage on a day to day basis. It was the same way with Shaq -- several members of the local media were regular dinner companions of the big guy on the road and were friendly with him -- and that impacted the reporting on the break up of the title teams.

There also is a long-running issue of beat writers not giving the public everything because some avenues of access would be cut off in the future.

The thing is, some readers understand these things, some don't. We're all better off as educated media consumers.

12:15 PM  
Blogger roland lazenby said...

Excellent points, Kurt. You made clear some things that I was bungling in dealing with the issue.

As for anonymous, you're correct that Brad's work last year for Lindy's wasn't his best.
As the editor of the magazine, I'm ultimately responsible for that. We're going to shake up our lineup of writers next year. Some guys have gotten tired of writing previews. Perhaps I gave certain people too many stories to write.
Whatever, we're not going to have the same issues next year.

Roland Lazenby

2:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The following is from "Maverick," written by Phil
Jackson (with Charlie Rosen) while Phil was still a player in 1975, which no doubt colored his present views on talking to the news media:

"I personally don't have anything against most of the
writers ... They're all doing a job and feeding their
families...The entire athlete-media [read:
coach-media] conflict ia a complex one. I have to try
and uphold my personality and integrity while a writer is only interested in producing a readable story. It's the ballplayer [coach] who takes all the risk, who let's the public see into his head. The athlete [coach] has to see that he can't control a writer's mind and that a writer has no stake in making the player [coach] look good. It then becomes the player's [coach's] responsibility to reveal what he wants to reveal and to hide what he wants hidden...I don't care who a person is, a writer can always find something to make him look bad."
--pages 92-94 of the paperback edition.

You can get the book to confirm to the quote. Jackson mentions in another book ("More Than a Game") how wary he is of the press due to having his quotes distorted and taken out of context to make him look bad. So you can imagine why he is, to use your favorite word to describe him, "manupulative," with the press. I don't view phil as a saint, he himself knows he's not, but i think that sometimes you come down harder on phil because you see the sycophants around him and the overpraise he's gotten for the nine rings. (sort of the way sam smith wrote "The Jordan Rules" after everybody began putting jordan on a pedestal as if he were a god. smith said he wrote it to "humanize" jordan, and the book contains mostly negative comments about jordan -- no doubt a reaction to the sycophants around him who only praised him. michael leahy did the same thing to jordan recently with "When Nothing Else matters.") so while you do compliment phil when it is appropriate roger, perhaps you come down a bit too hard on him for external reasons having nothing to do with him. they guy coaches basketball and tries to get his players to think about life beyond the game, he never pretends to be a god (even if some people mistakenly think that). he has publicly taken responsibility for his book playing a part in kobe getting the blame for the breakup and a major reason phil came back was to remedy that, knowing he would not win a title any time soon if ever. that looks like maturity, not arrogance. but that's just my opinion.

Yes, reporters are doing their job and have editors to please, but don't think for a second that players/coaches don't realize they're being set up most of the time to create a story to fill columns. which effects how they treat the press. the cycle continues when the reporter gets his revenge for being mistreated (it always comes in black and white).

there are exceptions and many cases of reporters and players/coaches getting along, but in phil's case he was no doubt burned by reporters as both a player and a coach and learned not to trust those who publish misleading information at the behest of their editors.

7:39 AM  
Blogger roland lazenby said...

You must have missed my on-the-record reporting of The Jordan Rules, in which I confirmed that Phil himself provided much of the "inside" detail on Jordan and Krause. When everybody got upset, Phil conveniently blamed it on his assistant John Bach (I have Phil on tape telling me Bach did it), then later firing Bach for providing the info that Sam Smith confirmed was mostly provided by Phil.
No, he's not a saint. And, yes, he is manipulative. It's spelled with an "i" by the way.

Thank you for your comment. Isn't "Maverick" a fantastic book? Phil signed my copy, before I reported the low moves he pulled to get himself out of dutch over The Jordan Rules.


Roland Lazenby

8:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i read your column on the phil-bach-krause situation. granted, the johnny bach firing incident clearly shows phil made a horrible error in judgment. if phil regrets his role in kobe getting blamed for the breakup of the lakers is it safe to assume he regrets what he did to bach (which was much worse)? that's just an assumption, phil is the only person who can answer that. but i get your point about his faults.

yes, i misspelled manipulative (note the "u" is next to the "i" on your keyboard), an unintended typo. and i referred to you as roger not roland, a much more egregious error than misspelling manipulative.

hope you keep on getting tex's take on hoops. it's great that we now get a chance to get his insights in your columns.

11:52 AM  

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