Report: Kobe wants to play closer to home

Originally Published: July 11, 2004
ESPN.com news services

The dance between Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Clippers reportedly has escalated to a higher level.

The Los Angeles Times reported in Sunday's editions that the unrestricted free agent asked the team if it was willing to play 10 or 12 games a year at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, Calif., which is closer to his Newport Beach home than Staples Center. Reportedly, the Clippers are considering the request.

Last week, the Clippers took their shot at trying to land the superstar guard. Sources told ESPN.com that Bryant met with the Clippers on Wednesday, a meeting later confirmed by the team, according to the paper.

But with Clippers restricted free agent Quentin Richardson being offered between $48 million and $50 million over six years by Phoenix, pursuing Bryant would be virtually moot if the team decides to match the Suns' offer for Richardson.

The Clippers, who have cleared salary-cap room since last fall to be in a position to sign Bryant, were tight-lipped about Wednesday's meeting, not even disclosing where the meeting took place.

"I will say this: We don't intend to get into any details or specifics other than to say that the meeting went well," general manager Elgin Baylor told the paper. "I think any other details or specifics you want to know, you should talk to Kobe's agent, or Kobe."

Bryant's agent, Rob Pelinka, declined comment.

"I thought the meeting went very well," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy told the paper, saying he was there. "It's really up to them. They decide how the meeting ultimately went, right? But I thought everything was fine&.

"We talked a lot of basketball, and styles, things of that nature."

Before meeting with the Clippers, the Nuggets met with Bryant at his Southern California home on Monday about the possibility of bringing him to Denver, which has generated mixed reaction among fans there because of his court case in Eagle, Colo., where he is accused of sexual assault. His trial begins Aug. 27.

The Lakers, who can offer Bryant up to $130 million over seven years, still remain squarely in the picture. There is the possiblility, however, that Bryant may not sign with the Lakers if Shaquille O'Neal is still on the roster as of Wednesday, the first day free agents can sign new contracts.

O'Neal, who has two years remaining on his contract with the Lakers, has been adamant about wanting to be traded and it appears the Lakers may be close to a deal with the Miami Heat that would send Shaq back to the Eastern Conference.

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