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The latest Kobe Bryant controversy — does he want to be traded or not? — reminds me of when former Lakers general manager Jerry West was hitting golf balls in San Diego with the father of a San Diego State football player.

West confided during the outing, my source tells me, that the real reason he left the Lakers was owner Jerry Buss signed Dennis Rodman — a disgrace to the NBA and sports in general — over his objections. West never publicly criticized Buss, but wasn’t it odd that shortly after he “retired” from the Lakers he resurfaced with the Memphis Grizzlies?

Buss over-ruling West’s judgment in basketball is like President Bush overruling General Colin Powell’s on the military. Oh, yeah, that happened too.

Now we’re learning that although Bryant has been saddled with the blame for forcing the Lakers to trade Shaquille O’Neal, Bryant says it was Buss who came to him and said he didn’t want O’Neal on his team and was trading him. O’Neal subsequently came out and said he believes Bryant’s version, and those two see eye-to-eye about as often as Allen Iverson agrees with NBA commissioner David Stern.

The Lakers are San Diego’s closest link to the NBA, since it’s anathema for a San Diegan to root for the Clippers after owner Donald Sterling hijacked the team from our town. But Buss continues to give us reasons not to care about the Lakers, either. I know the Lakers won a lot of titles after Buss bought the team, but he’s also the guy who started naming stadiums and arenas after businesses when he sold the naming rights to the Forum to a bank and it became the Great Western Forum.

Buss running the Lakers without Jerry West is like, well, Donald Sterling running the Clippers.

TOM SHANAHAN

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