Lakers don't appear ready to trade Bryant
LOS ANGELES -- While there seems little doubt Kobe Bryant wants out of Los Angeles, the Lakers aren't getting ready for life without him.
Coach Phil Jackson, who had hip replacement surgery last Tuesday, told the Los Angeles Times on Monday that he's had numerous discussions with Bryant since the star's trade demand.
"He's made a decision that he feels justified to hold -- one that I've questioned -- that he has reasons to leave the Lakers," Jackson in an e-mail to the newspaper. "However, it's my unshakeable feeling that Kobe will be a Laker next October when training camp opens."
The team's official stance hasn't wavered.
"I think we've made our position clear on that publicly and we have nothing further to say on the matter at this time," team spokesman John Black said Monday.
Black referred to a statement issued by team owner Jerry Buss on May 30, which said in part: "We will continue to pursue every avenue possible to improve our team with [Bryant] as the cornerstone."
Buss issued the statement after speaking with Bryant. The day before, Bryant first said he wanted to be traded during a radio interview, but seemed to backtrack on another interview after speaking with Jackson.
Buss and Bryant met face-to-face last Friday in Barcelona, and while the Los Angeles Times and Riverside Press-Enterprise quoted sources as saying Bryant still wanted out, Black declined comment other than to say: "Our position is what was said at that meeting between the two of them will remain between the two of them."
Buss, owner of the Lakers since 1979, recently sent a letter to season ticket-holders regarding the team's desire to be successful.
"We received about 1,000 e-mails expressing concerns, opinions and frustrations," Black said. "Dr. Buss wanted to address the matter himself."
Buss said, among other things, that the Lakers had made the playoffs in 26 of his 28 years as owner, but added: "We all want more."
"Our goal has been, and remains to be, to build the Lakers into a team that can regularly compete for championships," he said. "I believe that we have always shown a willingness to do what needs to be done and spend what needs to be spent to deliver you championship caliber basketball. We remain committed to that philosophy."
Bryant's name was not mentioned in the letter.
Meanwhile, the entry Bryant reposted Sunday on his Web site from late last month regarding his desire to be traded had been taken down by Monday. The only current item on the site, kb24.com, was a series of comments from Bryant's fans.
Several messages left for Bryant's agent, Rob Pelinka, weren't returned, and Chris Raih, the managing director of Zambezi Ink, the ad agency that created and maintains kb24.com, declined comment.
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. A nine-time All-Star, he enters next season as the two-time defending NBA scoring champion.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.