Kobe says he's just suggesting West's return, not demanding it

Updated: May 30, 2007, 8:24 AM ET
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Kobe Bryant definitely would like Jerry West back with the Lakers, but the star guard denied an ESPN report that he'd welcome a trade from the team if the Lakers aren't willing to make that happen.

"I'm not demanding anything," Bryant told the Riverside Press-Enterprise on Sunday night. "I'm not making any threats. I didn't say that. Those words didn't come out of my mouth about a trade. I'm just making a suggestion. I think Jerry West is one of the greatest to ever do this thing. It's undeniably so."

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Kobe Bryant talks about the past, present and future of the Lakers while addressing reports that he may want to be traded.
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Bryant told ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher Sunday that he wants the Lakers to bring West back to the organization and give him full authority. If the Lakers don't want to do that, Bryant said he would be willing to waive his no-trade clause and welcome a trade from the only organization he has played for in the NBA.

Bryant also told The Los Angeles Times that he was just making a suggestion and not a demand that West return to the Lakers.

"I would love for him to be a part of this," Bryant told the newspaper. "But it's not something where I demand he comes here. All I can do is offer my thoughts. I love being a Laker. I want to retire a Laker. I want to fix this thing, or at least help any way I can."

Monday evening, West released a statement through his current employer, the Memphis Grizzlies. West is the team's president of basketball operations.

"In response to yesterday's report, I want to make it clear that I have not spoken with the Lakers organization or Kobe Bryant about a job upon my retirement in Memphis. My loyalty is to Michael Heisley, the Memphis Grizzlies organization and our fans. I have a job to do with the Grizzlies through June 30 and much to accomplish by that date.

"I started my career with the Lakers and will always be a Laker fan. [Current Lakers' general manager] Mitch Kupchak and I are great friends and I would never do anything to jeopardize that friendship or to undermine his position with the Lakers. I have no plans to seek employment with ANY organization.

"I hope this puts an end to any further media speculation regarding my future plans."

Byrant told The Orange County Register for Monday's editions that he wan't trying to slam Kupchak or vice president Jim Buss, who is the son of owner Jerry Buss, by calling for West's return.

"It shouldn't say anything at all about them. It should speak to Jerry West's brilliance. I'm not trying to throw Mitch under the bus or Jim under the bus," Bryant told the newspaper.

Bryant also told The Register that he doesn't want a trade from Los Angeles.

"My wife is from here, I love it here, and I've been a Laker fan my whole life," Bryant told the newspaper. "My focus is on doing what I can to get this franchise back to where it should be. What I want to do is win with the Los Angeles Lakers and get us back to prominence."

West, who spent five seasons in Memphis, will leave his post as the Grizzlies' director of basketball operations July 1 at the end of his contract. West helped build the Lakers' dynasty in the '80s and engineered their rebirth in the '90s, overseeing seven NBA championship teams -- including back-to-back champions in 1987-88 and three consecutive crowns from 2000-02.

"I haven't thought about it at all until Kobe brought it up today. My main priority is to [Grizzlies owner] Mike Heisley and to finish up with the Memphis Grizzlies," West told ESPN's Jim Gray on Sunday night. "I am fiercely loyal to Mike, as I am to Mitch Kupchak. Having said that, I'm a lifelong Laker and we will see what happens."

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