Bryant requests trade, then backs off

Updated: May 31, 2007, 4:41 PM ET
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Lakers owner Jerry Buss spoke with Kobe Bryant on Thursday and said he told his frustrated superstar he would "pursue every avenue possible" to improve the team.

The conversation took place a day after Bryant asked to be traded, saying among other things he had been misled by Buss nearly three years ago when he re-signed with the Lakers.

"I talked with Kobe this morning and assured him that I share his frustration and, more importantly, I assured him that we will continue to pursue every avenue possible to improve our team with him as the cornerstone," Buss said in a statement. "I told him that we will keep him apprised of our progress and we agreed that we will talk again in the very near future."

Bryant, the NBA scoring champion the past two years, asked the Lakers for a trade Wednesday. He said nothing could change his mind, but he backed off somewhat after speaking with coach Phil Jackson.

"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."

Bryant said at that time he hadn't heard from Buss, indicating a conversation could go a long way toward resolving the matter.

Some three hours earlier, in an interview with ESPN radio, Bryant said he wanted to be traded. He added that it was a matter of trust, and he would rather "go play on Pluto" than remain with the Lakers.

Bryant, who turns 29 in August, is owed $88.6 million for the four years he has 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 said he felt Buss misled him right before he re-signed 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 this week that Buss wasn't bringing him back as coach following the 2003-04 season because the Lakers were committed to reducing payroll and rebuilding long term.

Jackson was out of coaching one season before being rehired by the Lakers, who haven't won a playoff series since Bryant re-signed. Bryant has the right to terminate his contract after the 2008-09 season.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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