Scrutiny gets to Mr. Bryant | VailDaily.com

Scrutiny gets to Mr. Bryant

Don RogersDaily Managing Editor

The word leaking out of LA these days suggests there is such a thing as poetic justice. At least while the vaunted Lakers are looking vulnerable without their Hall of Fame coach, Hall of Fame center, Hall of Fame guard, Hall of Fame forward and just about everyone connected to the franchise’s past three championships.Young Kobe Bryant, having had a hand in running everyone off, seems to have lost his Hall of Fame touch now that he’s surrounded mainly by what used to be known as the Miami Heat, half of that team being traded for the Big Fella, Shaquille O’Neal. This year’s Heat, incidentally, has the best record in the East. The Lakers will be lucky indeed to avoid being the lesser team in Los Angeles alone.Oh, it’s a cruel world. The fans seem to have finally figured out that the carefully manicured image of the “squeaky clean” Bryant was all mirage. That he might have forced himself on a teen-age hotel worker in Cordillera with her own set of troubles could be mostly overlooked, of course. But failing to be the odds-on favorite in the NBA, well, that’s completely different.Plagued by the young lady’s lawyers pursuing that civil case against him, playing below a Jordanesque standard, feeling unaccustomed fan scrutiny, Bryant is struggling with his composure.The latest is this drama queen, or middle school, spat with Karl Malone, in which Bryant publicly accuses the old guy of “hitting” on his wife, who is about the age of Malone’s daughter. Malone, offended, becomes the last of the warhorses to stalk off. Oh, brother. What a spectacle.You know, Dr. Buss could have asked us before signing over the franchise to Kobe. Eagle County could have told him No. 8 was a big phony, whether or not he committed a crime here. Vail, Colorado