Evil genius, you say? Maybe, but genius just the same.

First things first. Kobe Bryant is a genius with a basketball in his hand. Any objections to that statement? I thought not.

Yes, you can make an argument that Kobe’s machinations in summers past indicate less than Einstein-like smarts, and to a lesser degree in this one too, but desperate times call for desperate measures. And there’s a method to the madness.

Kobe wants to win championships. He wants the Lakers to win championships. And while you don’t have to be a genius to see that the organization, as it’s currently configured, is not on the precipice, Kobe seems to be the only guy around who has an intelligent suggestion: Bring back Jerry West. Just bring back Jerry West, already.

About this point Kobe is 100 percent correct. If no one at the team’s El Segundo offices agrees, or can figure a way to arrange for West’s return, then quite obviously, Kobe is the smartest guy in the vicinity. Jerry Buss has a PhD in some science or other, while Kobe has a high school diploma, but when it comes to the present-day Lakers, Kobe’s the brightest man around. He gets it. Buss doesn’t. At least, not at the moment.

And by the way, Bryant makes for a better pedigree too. Kobe is a second generation professional basketball player, whose young children are more likely to be successes in running a franchise before either of Dr. Buss’ adult sons even earns an opportunity. Emphasis on the word “earns.”

West might not get the Lakers a ring in 2008, but then again, he just might. And clearly, Mitch Kupchak isn’t the guy. In fact, and there’s no nice way to say it, Kupchak compares about as well with West in the front office, as he did in the front court. Fine, Kupchak was a forward and West a guard, but you get the idea.

West, like Kobe, is a basketball genius. Kupchak, well, isn’t. Rather than detail West’s many accomplishments, let’s just note that it’s Jerry’s likeness the league chose to silhouette in its logo, not Kupchak’s.

Kupchak came to the Lakers in 1981, following a career year as a Washington Bullets player, in which he scored 12.5 points per game, grabbed 6.9 rebounds per game, and played in all 82 contests, in a part-time role. Los Angeles made Kupchak a starter, and he proceeded to go under the knife pretty much immediately. He played in 60 games total over the next two seasons, and was done two years after that, at the age of 31.

Having spent the prime of his playing career injured, Kupchak seems almost blind to the need for durability in his key men. If there’s a team out there that’s even remotely interested in Kwame Brown, the J.D. Drew of L.A. basketball, Kupchak should jump at the chance. Hopefully, he won’t tear anything in the process. And if there’s a more dependable body than Lamar Odom’s available, the same thing applies.

Say what you will about Kevin Garnett, and how he’s never won much of a thing, but the man plays. He plays. How does a total of 15 games missed in the last eight years strike you? Oh, and a career 22.4 points per game and 12.8 rebounds.

I understand, you don’t just snap your fingers and land Kevin Garnett. But at least with West, there’s precedent. He made Kobe a Laker, after all, and Shaquille O’Neil, in the same off-season no less. What’s Kupchak’s biggest coup as general manager? Sure, signing Aaron McKie and Smush Parker, both in the same off-season.

— HOWARD COLE

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