I picture Kobe Bryant, sitting alone at a table for two in an Orange County restaurant. Five minutes pass. Ten. Twenty. Forty-five. Periodically, a sympathetic waitress comes by, wondering if she should take away the empty place setting across from the two-time Finals MVP.
"No, no, he'll be here. He's just running late," Bryant says with an awkward smile, trying to hide any embarrassment.
Of course, that's not how it went down, because after free agent guard Raja Bell accepted a three-year deal from the Utah Jazz Wednesday night, he had the courtesy to let him know in advance of their meeting. (A nicety appropriate whether free agent decisions are televised or not.) Given what the Jazz offered -- three years and nearly $10 million, as reported by ESPN.com's Marc Stein -- it's not surprising he jumped on the opportunity. There's simply no way the Lakers could compete financially. Bell may very well put a premium on winning, but he's also at an age when a guaranteed deal for about 40 percent more money (at least) is hard to pass up. The Jazz aren't true title contenders, but Bell won't have to suffer through 50 loss seasons, either.
The time Kobe spent working on what I'm sure was a brilliant PowerPoint presentation is lost forever, but his loss could be Shannon Brown's gain. He's still available, the Lakers still need a guard, and the funny money tossed around at the start of the free agent summer summer is starting to dry up. What remains is a nice case of mutual need and mutual interest.
One last thing: Stein notes how a helicopter was poised to pick up Bell and deliver him to his meeting with Bryant. I'd just like to point out that I was the first to suggest the heli-method as a way to sway Bell. I'm not saying Kobe stole my idea... I'm just not saying Kobe didn't steal my idea.