LABJ FORUM - Root for the Home Team

It's been a long season for the Lakers, but maybe an even longer one for Laker fans. The excitement over adding Karl Malone and Gary Payton was quickly eclipsed by a war of words between Shaq and Kobe. That's since settled, unlike Bryant's sexual assault case, which may or may not be resulting in his erratic play dismal one night, stellar the next. Then there's the question of whether Phil Jackson will stay with the team. So the Business Journal asks:

Have all the distractions with the Lakers affected your interest in the team?

Janice Arouh
Senior Vice President,
National Distribution and Service
Hallmark Channel

Yes. It's hard to watch because this season has been filled with so much uncertainty, with all the issues surrounding Kobe and Phil Jackson. I used to work for the Cleveland Cavaliers when basketball was great in the early '80s. It was all about the team and about the game. Now it's all about the players' sponsorships and all their other business interests. What I really take issue with is that they're all personal issues, like Kobe and Phil Jackson not getting along and hashing out their issues. It's completely affecting their play. They're not acting like a team.



Bill Sewell
President
IOWA LLC

I've actually been more interested in following them this year than in prior years. I wanted to see the Dream Team combination pull it together. I don't have time to watch the games, but have been checking online every day to see how they're doing. The backstory has been eating away at them. But the fact that Kobe can still come out and score 45 points in a game is a testament to their strength. I'm always interested in watching people overcome extra adversity, so I'm even more interested in them now.



Marc Buckhantz
Vice President
Louise's Trattoria

Yes. It's difficult to maintain the same level of desire for the team to succeed with all the distractions that seem to involve them this year. The most distracting thing is the contract situation with Kobe Bryant. From a layman's point of view, it seems their playing has been affected over the course of the year. I'll still be a fan no matter what happens. Before the distractions, I was aware of the results of every game and I'd watch 10 to 20 percent of the games on TV, the whole game. Now, I don't watch the games. I still follow the results, usually by checking on the Web. I'm just waiting for the playoffs.



Dale Goldsmith
Partner
Armbruster & Goldsmith

Absolutely. If I wanted to watch a soap opera, I'd tune in to 'All My Children.' It's the constant drama of Will Kobe play or won't he? Will he shoot or won't he? Will Phil Jackson be back next year or won't he? Will Gary Payton get the ball enough or won't he? The whole Kobe rape saga has been a real distraction. I don't know whether to look for the Lakers on the front page or the sports section.



Leon Chatmon
President, Owner
Top Hat Realty

I follow news about the Lakers, so whatever is presented by the media, I know about it. I read what is said, and treat it like a gnat I don't want to be bothered with. It is not really a major distraction for me, so let's get on with the game.



Ron Crumpton
Youth Advocacy Program Supervisor
Children's Collective Inc.

I'm a die-hard Lakers fan and I'm going to follow the Lakers until they change their name. I think the media blows things out of proportion. Rick Fox's injury was another setback. However, I think that they're still good enough to win. They're one of the top teams in the West.

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