Options still open despite being booed in Denver
DENVER -- Despite the harsh reception he received during his last game in Denver, Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant said he will consider the Nuggets among various free-agent suitors when the season ends.
The Nuggets are expected to make a run at Bryant during free agency this summer. Bryant said Wednesday he would listen.
"As I've been saying, at the end of the season I'm going to sit down and evaluate every option and break down every team, and Denver is one of them," Bryant said at a shootaround before Wednesday night's game.
Bryant last played here Jan. 7 -- his first game in Denver since being charged with sexually assaulting a woman at a Colorado resort last summer. He was booed during pre-game introductions and every time he touched the ball.
Asked if he expected the same reaction Wednesday night, he said, "I don't know. The last time we came here, what I'm focused on is the fact that they beat us pretty bad (113-91). I want to come in tonight and see if we can't return the favor."
Nuggets general manager Kiki Vandeweghe has urged fans to use their energy cheering for the Nuggets instead of directing negative comments toward Bryant.
"I appreciate that," Bryant said. "That's something that he didn't have to do, but he did it. It shows a lot of support on his part. It goes a long way with me."
Fans in other NBA cities hoping to land Bryant have eased up on the booing, including San Antonio and Phoenix.
Denver would be a more attractive option for Bryant than in recent years because the team is competitive.
The Nuggets haven't reached the playoffs since 1995, but they entered Wednesday night's game with a 32-26 record, and Bryant has noticed.
"I think they've improved tremendously," he said. "The job Kiki has done has been masterful, how quickly he's been able to turn things around. You have to consider them a serious playoff contender. They've been having a great season."
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press