The Lakers’ loss to the Mavericks was surprising. That the two-time defending champions were swept was shocking.

The gossip and chatter surrounding what was partially to blame for L.A.’s collapse was flat-out astonishing.

And we’re not even talking about scurrilous hearsay you read on a message board. Respected, award-winning columnist Bill Plaschke of the L.A. Times actually wrote the following paragraph about soon-to-be ex-teammates Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant:

“He was referring to the report that he stopped talking to Bryant during the postseason because Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, had contributed to the breakup of Gasol and his longtime girlfriend. Lakers fans will remember that Karl Malone once publicly accused Vanessa of interfering with his personal life in a similar fashion.”

What prompted that paragraph was a horrible postseason from Gasol, who saw his field goal percentage dip by 13 percent. After an embarrassing 36-point loss in Game 4 at Dallas, the Los Angeles big man said, “I have to learn that when something happens off the court, you have to keep it off the court.”

The floppy-haired Gasol was dating stunning cheerleader Silvia Lopez Castro for more than a year. The Spanish media treated the couple as if he were a soccer star and she a WAG.

Sure, the breakup shocked him. But we wouldn’t put it past Kobe to find a way to sabotage Gasol, who will likely be part of a much bigger breakup in L.A. this summer, when the Lakers unload everyone but Bryant.


Bryant’s sketchy background

Bryant’s relationship with his wife has been bizarre since the start. They met when she was 17 and he was 21 playing for the Lakers; six months later they were engaged (she was still in high school).

Kobe’s parents were so upset that they, along with his two sisters and agent all skipped the wedding (none of his teammates attended, either). Kobe and his parents didn’t speak for two years, even when his wife gave birth.

Then came the high-profile sexual assault complaint filed by a staffer at a resort in Eagle, Colo. Kobe gave his wife a $4 million, 8-carat ring and she stuck with him.

This isn’t Kobe’s first time

The Bryants have had their fair share of run-ins with teammates. The one between Kobe’s wife Vanessa and Malone, who played just one season in L.A. from 2003-04, is particularly memorable. The Mailman showed up at a November 2004 game dressed like a Cowboy. Vanessa asked, “Hey, cowboy, what are you hunting?” Malone shot back, “I'm hunting for little Mexican girls,” but denied he made a pass at her.

Perhaps more infamously is the Kobe-Shaq saga. During Kobe’s arrest in Colorado, police claim Bryant said he “should have done what Shaq does ... that Shaq would pay his women not to say anything,” and added Shaq had paid $1 million “for situations like this.”

So yes, we totally believe Kobe and/or his wife broke up Gasol’s relationship. But let’s be honest, Pau doesn’t deserve Silvia. After all, he’s not even the best Gasol in the NBA.

–Jason Raj McIntyre covers athletes off the field and runs the popular blog, TheBigLead.com

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