Thursday , Jul , 15 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Bryant remains with Lakers

Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) – All-Star guard Kobe Bryant announced
Thursday that he has decided to remain with the Los Angeles Lakers. Terms were
not disclosed, but reports have the deal for seven years and worth at least
$130 million.

Bryant was initially selected out of Lower Merion High School in Pennsylvania
with the 13th overall pick in the 1996 draft by Charlotte. However, his draft
rights were later traded to LA in a deal that sent Vlade Divac to the Hornets.

The 25-year-old Bryant, who has spent all eight of his NBA seasons with the
Lakers, seriously considered playing for the Clippers. Bryant, though,
ultimately decided on staying with his current club.

“We realize that this was an important decision for him, and we respect the
process undertaken to reach it,” said Clippers Vice President of Basketball
Operations, Elgin Baylor.

Bryant averaged 24 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game last season
for Los Angeles, which lost to the Pistons in five games in the NBA Finals.

“Everybody at the Los Angeles Clippers — starting with the owner — would
like to wish Kobe well,” said Baylor.

The six-time All-Star Bryant has averaged 21.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.3
assists in 561 career games. Bryant, the 2002 All-Star game MVP, averaged
personal bests with 30.0 points, 6.9 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game in
2002-03.

The Lakers hope to have Bryant on the basketball court in time for the
upcoming season as he awaits his pending trial in a sexual assault case.

Bryant is accused of sexually assaulting a woman over a year ago at a Colorado
resort, a Class 3 felony with penalties ranging from four years to life in
prison or 20 years to life on probation.

Bryant, who was in Colorado for surgery on his right knee at the time of the
alleged assault, claimed the two had consensual sex.

Los Angeles has won the NBA title in three of the last five seasons, but the
team will have a significantly different look this year. On Wednesday, the
club parted ways with three-time Finals MVP Shaquille O’Neal after he was
traded to Miami in exchange for Lamar Odom, Brian Grant, Caron Butler and a
first-round draft pick.

It is also likely that the Lakers will be without future Hall-of Fame forward
Karl Malone, who is both contemplating retirement and exploring opportunities
with other teams. Reserve guard Derek Fisher is also a free agent and could be
looking elsewhere.

LAL