UPDATE, MAY 17, 11:58 A.M.: After his exit interview today with Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and coach Phil Jackson at the team's El Segundo training facility, forward Pau Gasol denied there was any rift between his girlfriend and Vanessa Bryant, nor between himself and Kobe Bryant.
There had been widespread speculation on the Interwebs that Newport Coast's most-famous NBA mom had caused friction that infected the Lakers locker room and resulted in the team getting swept in the NBA playoffs by the Dallas Mavericks.
Gasol, who had a particularly poor postseason, confessed he did not comprehend the full extent of the rumors until he returned to LA from Texas.
"I didn't know to what extent it had become an issue," Gasol reportedly told ESPN in an impromptu parking lot interview. "During the playoffs I'm totally out of the media whether it's great or not so great. But you do feel it because your environment feels it, and they make you feel it."
As reporter Ramona Shelburne notes, the kernel for the Gasol v. Bryant rumors was the lanky Spaniard's cryptic comments after the Lakers' 122-86 loss to Dallas in Game 4, when he acknowledged needing to keep things happening off the basketball court from messing with his game on it. Reports then went viral (see original post) that Vanessa Bryant put a bug in Gasol fiancé Silvia Lopez Castro's ear that ultimately split the couple up, and that teammates Gasol and Kobe Bryant had a locker room showdown that caused the Lakers to play like the Clippers.
Gasol today clarified his earlier remarks, saying that he was referring to the toll the viral story initially took on him and the team, and that he was not legitimizing the unfounded basis for it. "Everything just seemed to get bigger and heavier," Gasol said. "Sometimes I feel like I'm an easy target."
And for that, team leader Derek Fisher took responsibility in the same ESPN post, saying he, too, did not understand the magnitude of the rumors but that he should have stepped in and spoke up on his teammates' behalf. His undelivered message to the media: "To say that I think it was ridiculously wrong to assume some of the things that were being assumed, and to place the burden of how successful we were or were not on his shoulders."
As for Gasol's relationship with Lopez Castro, who attended a Mavs-Lakers game with his mother, Gasol said, "My girlfriend and I are fine, we're happy, we're doing well. Kobe and I are fine."
ORIGINAL POST, MAY 9, 3:55 P.M.: The Los Angeles Lakers imploded in spectacular fashion on Mother's Day, and one wag pins the cause of the Great Meltdown of 2011 not on shirtless Andrew Bynum or checked-out Phil Jackson or the MIA Laker bench.
Under this particular scenario, it is the fault of Bryant.
No, not Kobe Bryant, but his wife, Vanessa Bryant.
Here's how TMR Zoo, the blog for the lad site The Man Room, lays it out:
A report Friday on urban gossip site MediaTakeOut.com claims that the wife of an unnamed Lakers teammate got Pau Gasol dumped by his fiancé Silvia Lopez Castro. The unnamed woman is said to have befriended Castro and put all kinds of ideas in her head about Gasol before the breakup.
Gasol, of course, just had a horrible post-season. Basketball commentators remarked on how he didn't play like the Pau Gasol of recent seasons past, and some later mentioned personal problems as possibly being the cause. Could it have been the split?
MediaTakeOut adds that Gasol and the unnamed teammate also fought over the matter, and that each yelled some not very nice things about one another's ladies. Both players did not speak to one another since, and team chemistry suffered as a result.
The mystery wife could just as much be Lamar Odom's wife Khloe Kardashian, but TMR Zoo notes others have connected the dots to the former Vanessa Laine of Huntington Beach. Under this thread, Vanessa Bryant supposedly poisoned the Lakers' locker room all season. Why? Because she is apparently hella-jealous over the attention the Odoms are getting thanks to their E! reality show. She's trying to bring the spotlight back on the Bryants--without Kobe having to rape someone in a hotel room to do it.
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Vanessa is now said to be shopping a reality show of her own, even though Kobe made it quite clear to KCAL's John Ireland recently that Black Mamba ain't into doing one. That might explain why he never pops up even in background shots of players practicing on Khloe and Lamar. The rumor-mongers counter Vanessa's saving tape of her man for her own televised gig.
Anyways, Kobe apparently told ESPN's J.A. Adande, a former Los Angeles Times sports columnist, that Vanessa and Castro barely know one another, so put those destroyer rumors to rest.
But remember back in the days--like before the Lakers picked up their second straight ring after the last Finals--when it was all about hoops and not reality shows? When the only time you heard about a steamed Laker wife was when "Big Game" James Worthy's name appeared in a busted Portland whore's little black book? Jeez, back in Showtime, the Lakers could go out and contract HIV without anyone knowing about their personal lives.
Ah, the good ol' days . . .