Lately the Los Angeles Lakers are steeped in controversy all over the place.
After the team won the NBA title in June the hits have kept coming for LA.
First the team held a lavish parade that raised concerns over the source of it funding. Then its home stadium hosted the funeral service for pop idol Michael Jackson.
From there the team has made some surprising moves in the off-season. The Lakers let Trevor Ariza walk and join conference rival the Houston Rockets. At the same time LA picked up controversial player Ron Artest from the same team. In addition star big man Lamar Odom seems on his way.
The latest twist originates right here in Cayman, courtesy of an influential sports figure.
Even though the NBA season ended a little over a months ago there are still many here who are divided over their like and dislike of the Lakers. But few are as vocal as the Director of Department of Sports Dalton Watler.
‘I don’t like Kobe,’ Watler said. ‘I think he is an idiot. He thinks too much of himself. I wanted anyone but LA to win.’
Watler was one of a few locals rooting for the Orlando Magic in the finals. A noted basketball fan, Watler even travelled to Amway Arena in South Florida to catch a few games.
In his eyes LA’s win is more of lucky circumstances than the greatness of the team.
‘I went to the States to watch the two Magic home games. I was there when they won game three and when they lost game five. Orlando had the series but threw it away through lack of experience.
‘In game five the Magic were up by seven points with 45 seconds left and they lost. LA really never beat them up aside from game one when the Magic lost by 20 points.’
An overview of the series shows the Magic were a challenge for LA. After game one’s 25 point blow-out every other match was close and could have gone either way.
LA won game two in an overtime thriller by five points and the Magic took game three by four points. From there the Lakers took game four by eight points and closed the series with a 13 point win in game five.
Nevertheless Watler strongly dislikes the Lakers and star Kobe Bryant. For him the dislike traces back to the days of Shaq.
‘To me a good leader is humble and just plays. His arguments with Shaq really made me dislike him. Unfortunately Kobe and the Lakers won this year but we’ll see what happens next season.’
Watler, who does not see himself as an Orlando fan, says Cleveland is the team to beat next season.
‘With Cleveland getting Shaq it’s going to be different. Cleveland lost last season because of a lack of a big man. I think the next champion is going to be Cleveland because nobody can stop Shaq and Lebron.’
Another outspoken LA detractor is local basketball coach Duran ‘Trini’ Whittaker. Trini coaches the Wolves basketball team and rose to prominence this year as the squad won its first national men’s basketball championship.
In fact Trini was named coach of the year for his team’s success and presented a trophy by local men’s league sponsor Joel Jefferson of Dominos Pizza.
Trini is a staunch Kevin Garnett supporter and feels the Boston Celtics are the favourites next year.
‘I’m a Lakers hater. I want any team to win other than the Lakers. I’m not an Orlando fan but I rooted for the Magic in the finals just because they were playing LA. However I’m a big Kevin Garnett fan because I love the way he plays the game.
‘I support Garnett and his team all the way and next year looks like a good one for Boston.’
In spite of his confidence in Cleveland, Watler (who travels every year to catch at least one NBA game) can see Boston stopping an LA repeat.
‘Between Cleveland and Boston there should be no LA repeat. One of the reasons LA won was because Kevin Garnett was hurt and Boston couldn’t make it to the finals. If Garnett was healthy it could have been another Celtics championship.’