Bryant says it's a misunderstanding

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Kobe Bryant would love to have Karl Malone back with the Los Angeles Lakers, and believes comments he
made in a recent radio interview were misunderstood.

Bryant also said Wednesday that he tried to call Malone "and
square it all out."

Malone's agent, Dwight Manley, said Tuesday that his client had
ruled out a return to the Lakers because of what Bryant said in the
radio interview and what the agent called "recent personal attacks
made in private."

Bryant said he was shocked by Malone's reaction.

"I meant nothing by it. It wasn't directed toward him," Bryant
said after the Lakers' shootaround. "I'd love to have him back
here, everybody would. If he wants to come back and play, the
door's always open.

"This is the type of place he should enjoy playing. I'm happy
to hear he's 100 percent. And in no way what I said was directed
toward him or a personal attack. If he's felt some type of way
about that, then I apologize."

But Bryant also said: "It is what it is, and I want to move on
with the team we have here."

Manley said Malone was furious" and "felt very disrespected"
after hearing of an account of what Bryant told XTRA radio in an
interview Monday.

Bryant told the radio station he didn't think that Malone, who
underwent surgery on his right knee last summer, would return to
the Lakers, calling it "just intuition." Bryant also said the
uncertainty wasn't fair to his teammates.

"I think he took what I said the wrong way," Bryant said
Wednesday. "Maybe he didn't hear it, maybe he ran off with what
somebody else was saying. If I felt like (Malone) was a
distraction, I would have said it. I didn't say anything like

Malone told KCBS-TV late Tuesday that he didn't "want to be
anyone's distraction."

Bryant said his relationship with Malone has "always been

"If Karl comes back, it will be a tremendous addition," Bryant
said. "But if he doesn't, I'm fine rolling with the guys we have
here. It's his decision if he wants to come back."

Bryant didn't appear upset or agitated Wednesday.

"Everything I've been through, you just shrug it off," he
said. "I don't hold grudges, I don't hold anger or resentment
toward anybody. I've been through a lot. You forgive and move on.
If Karl comes back, great. If he doesn't, that's fine, too."

Lakers coach Rudy Tomjanovich defended Bryant.

"I believe Kobe said it was a misunderstanding," Tomjanovich
said. "And we've always felt the same way, that the red carpet is
out for [Malone] if he wants to come back. He deserves to make a
decision at the end of a great career.

"We have not talked at all. It's unfortunate negativity came
out of it. But I don't think there's one ounce of negativity around
here about Karl Malone."

The 41-year-old Malone told the Lakers on Oct. 1 he wasn't ready
to play. But he didn't rule out returning at some point this season
or later.

Manley said Tuesday that Malone had fully recovered from his
surgery and would address his future in the next month or so.

Shaquille O'Neal, Malone's teammate last season in Los Angeles
and a good friend of the power forward, would not speculate as to
whether his current team -- the Miami Heat -- and general manager Pat Riley -- would pursue Malone.

"I'm sure he'll call if he's interested," O'Neal said before
Miami's game at Milwaukee on Wednesday night. "And, maybe Mr.
Riley will be interested. And, I can do my part with the general
managerial skills that I possess. I can do my part to help, but
it's totally up to Coach Riley."

O'Neal said he hasn't lobbied for Malone to join the Heat.

"Whenever guys like us talk, it's never about basketball," he
said. "It's just about the families, the kids and about life. It's
never about basketball. It's never about coming back. Karl's a
great guy and I know he went through a tough injury last year, so
basketball is probably the last thing on his mind."