|Bryant requests trade, then backs off|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 30 May 2007 21:41|
Their relationship is much different now.
Feeling insulted and misled, Bryant asked the Lakers for a trade Wednesday, saying nothing could change his mind.
Then, he spoke with his coach.
``I don't want to go anywhere, this is my team,'' Bryant told KLAC radio. ``I love it here. I called Phil, man, he and I talked, it was an emotional conversation, but he just said, 'You know what, Kobe? Let us try to figure this thing out.'
``Phil is a guy I lean on a lot.''
Some three hours earlier, in an interview with ESPN radio, Bryant said: ``I would like to be traded, yeah. Tough as it is to come to that conclusion, there's no other alternative. It's rough, man, but I don't see how you can rebuild that trust. I just don't know how you can move forward in that type of situation.''
Bryant told KLAC, the Lakers' flagship station, that his agent had contacted general manager Mitch Kupchak early Wednesday. He also said he hadn't heard from owner Jerry Buss, indicating a conversation could go a long way toward resolving the matter.
Buss issued a statement after Bryant's request to be traded, saying: ``We are aware of the media reports. 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's agent, Rob Pelinka, didn't respond to several messages left by The Associated Press.
Bryant, who helped the Lakers win three consecutive NBA championships, has four years left on the seven-year, $136.4 million contract he signed July 15, 2004. That was a day after Shaquille O'Neal was traded to the Miami Heat.
Bryant was angered Tuesday after a Los Angeles Times columnist quoted a Lakers ``insider'' as saying it was Bryant's insistence on getting away from O'Neal that prompted the trade to Miami. Bryant said he knew who the so-called insider was, but wouldn't identify the person.
He also said he believes Buss misled him three years ago - right before he re-signed with the Lakers - by telling him one thing and Jackson something else about the team's goals.
Bryant said he was told the Lakers would immediately try to rejoin the NBA's elite. But he said Jackson told him Tuesday that Buss was not bringing him back as coach following the 2003-04 season because the Lakers were committed to reducing payroll and rebuilding long term.
``They said nothing to me about a long-term plan. Absolutely nothing,'' Bryant told KLAC on Tuesday. ``They told Phil one thing and they told me another. Actions speak louder than words.''
It was the following fall, when Jackson was out of coaching, that a book he wrote chronicling the 2003-04 season was released. He was most candid concerning his feelings about Bryant, but the two have grown close since Jackson returned as the Lakers' coach a year later.
The Lakers won championships from 2000-02 and reached the NBA finals again in 2004, losing to the Detroit Pistons in five games. The team was broken up at that time. O'Neal was traded, Jackson left and other stalwarts - Karl Malone, Gary Payton, Derek Fisher, Robert Horry and Rick Fox - went elsewhere or retired.
The Lakers failed to make the playoffs the following season. With Jackson returning before the 2005-06 campaign, they finished seventh in the Western Conference in each of the past two years, but were eliminated by Phoenix in the first round of the playoffs.
The Lakers appeared to be contenders through the first half of this season, going 26-13 despite several injuries. But they lost 27 of their last 43 games to finish 42-40 before bowing to the Suns in five games.
Bryant urged the team at season's end to do what it takes to get back into contention. He essentially repeated those comments last weekend in an interview with the Times.
On Sunday, he suggested former Lakers general manager Jerry West should return. West left the team in the summer of 2000 and was succeeded by Kupchak.
West, an employee of the Lakers for about 40 years as a player, coach and executive, is under contract as the Memphis Grizzlies' president until July 1. He turned 69 this week and has remained a close friend of Kupchak's. West has said he has ``no plans to seek employment with any other organization.''
It was West who brought Bryant to the Lakers, trading center Vlade Divac to Charlotte in the summer of 1996 for the rights to Bryant - the 13th pick in the NBA draft. Bryant was only 17 at the time.
Bryant has made the All-Star team in each of the past nine seasons, clearly establishing himself as an NBA great before age 30. Only one active NBA player, Kevin Garnett, has a longer tenure with one team than Bryant. Garnett has played 12 seasons for Minnesota.