Thursday , Apr , 01 , 2010 C.Y. Ellis

Double Talk: Kobe backs off on trade demand

Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) – Kobe Bryant has made conflicting statements
about whether he wants to be traded from the Los Angeles Lakers.

At first on Wednesday, in an interview with Stephen A. Smith on ESPN Radio in
New York, Bryant said he wanted to be dealt, saying the Lakers “obviously want
to move in a different direction in terms of rebuilding.” Later in the
afternoon, on the same network, Bryant said he spoke to Lakers coach Phil
Jackson after his comments to Smith, but felt better about the situation with
his current team.

“I don’t want to go anyplace else,” the nine-time All-Star said later in the
afternoon. “I want to be a Laker. I want to be here for the rest of my career.
It was encouraging to hear that.”

The 28-year-old Bryant still has four years and nearly $89 million left on a
seven-year contract he signed in 2004, but has butted heads with Los Angeles
general manager Mitch Kupchak over the inability to garner more talent for the
franchise.

“I’m so tired of talking,” Bryant said in the latter interview on ESPN Radio.
“It’s tough. I always dreamed about retiring as a Laker. Now I just hope
something can be resolved, something can be figured out. Something so I can be
here in this city and be with the team I love.”

The Lakers have not won a playoff series since trading Shaquille O’Neal in
July of 2004 and were eliminated by the Phoenix Suns in just five games this
season. Bryant voiced his displeasure about the team’s struggles to Smith.

“I could have went to a team like the Los Angeles Clippers that had a lot
more talent,” Bryant told Smith. “I chose to stay here because of the
promises that they made in terms of building the team. If I knew that they
weren’t going to be aggressive in getting a Baron Davis, in getting a
Carlos Boozer. That would have changed things drastically, but I didn’t
ask for this, certainly no.”

The Lakers issued a response Wednesday afternoon.

“We are aware of the media reports,” Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss said in a
statement. “However, Kobe has not told us directly that he wants to be traded.
We have made it very clear that we are building our team around Kobe and that
we intend for him to be a Laker his entire career. We will speak directly to
Kobe and until we do that, we will not comment publicly about this.”

Bryant has averaged 24.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists in 784 career
games with the Lakers and has been a part of three world championship teams.

To be moved, Bryant would have to waive a no-trade clause and would apparently
be more than willing do so.

“At this point I’ll go play on Pluto right now,” Bryant told Smith. “I
just want to work hard. I just want to play, enjoy the game of basketball.”

Bryant also made a couple of statements on his Web site about the situation
with the Lakers.

“When you love something as much as I love the Lakers its hard to even imagine
thinking about being elsewhere,” he said. “But, the one thing I will never
sacrifice when it comes to basketball is winning. That is plain and simply
what it’s all about. It’s in my DNA. It’s what pushes me to work as hard as I
do. It’s my daily passion and pursuit.”

Bryant said he was told by Dr. Jerry Buss, owner of the team, that when he re-
signed he was told the team was going to make every effort to win now instead
of reducing payroll.

What brought Bryant, though, to the brink was apparently an article in the Los
Angeles Times that quoted a Lakers insider as saying it was Bryant’s
insistence that O’Neal be traded, something the perennial All-Star has
vehemently denied.

“The Lakers are pursuing a longer-term plan that is different from what Dr.
Buss shared with me at the time I re-signed as a free agent,” Bryant said.
“I have seen that plan unfold for the last three years and watched great trade
opportunities come and go, and have seen free agents passed on. That has led
to the Lakers not winning a playoff series. All of that was frustrating in
itself, but then, this week to have someone “inside” the Laker organization
try to blame me in the media for us not being a contender right now — that is
what brought me to my current position today.”

LAL