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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.

Kobe Bryant

Bryant

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.