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Lakers expect Bryant to be at team's Hawaii training camp

LOS ANGELES -- The time has come for Kobe Bryant to end
months of silence regarding the Los Angeles Lakers.

That's assuming he joins his teammates Monday at media day in suburban El Segundo and then on the flight to Hawaii for the start of training camp Tuesday.

Although Bryant is expected, his spokesperson Catherine Sebring declined comment when asked about his plans, lending a bit of intrigue.

Still, the Lakers are counting on him.

"Without mentioning specific names, appropriate people in our organization have been in contact with Kobe, and we have no reason to believe he won't be in Hawaii for training camp," team spokesman John Black said.

A posting Friday on Bryant's Web site indicated the 29-year-old will be at camp.

"The countdown to tipoff is on," it began. "Summer is gone, fall is upon us and that can mean only one thing: NBA training camps are just around the corner. While some teams are holding their media days today, the Lakers will invite the media to their practice facility on Monday and will depart shortly after for training camp in Hawaii.

"kb24.com will be at media day to bring you the sights and sounds as the team prepares to kick off the 2007-2008 season."

Bryant hasn't said much about the Lakers since those bizarre couple of days four months ago when he called the team's front office a mess on a local sports talk radio show, asked to be traded on a national show, backed off during an emotional interview on yet another local show, then reiterated his desire to play elsewhere.

The two-time defending NBA scoring champion pushed for an upgraded roster after the Lakers were eliminated by Phoenix in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight year last spring.

It hasn't happened.

Unrestricted free agents Luke Walton and Chris Mihm were
re-signed, and Derek Fisher, a former Laker was added, which should
improve the backcourt. But an attempt to land Kevin Garnett from
Minnesota was unsuccessful, and nothing developed regarding
Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal.

Bryant did apologize to general manager Mitch Kupchak for
criticizing him and bemoaning the fact that Andrew Bynum wasn't
traded in a video recorded by three fans last spring and sold on
the Internet.

But Bryant declined to discuss his situation with the Lakers
while playing for the United States earlier this summer in the FIBA
Americas tournament. He was a key factor in the USA's triumph,
landing the Americans a berth in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The Lakers repeatedly have said they won't trade Bryant, who has
played his entire 10-year NBA career with them. He has four years
remaining on the seven-year, $136.4 million contract he signed
following the 2003-04 season -- immediately after Shaquille O'Neal
was traded to Miami. Bryant can terminate the deal in two years.

The Lakers won three championships and reached the NBA Finals
for a fourth time in O'Neal's last five years with them, but the
bad blood between O'Neal and Bryant was well-chronicled.

Right before he asked to be traded, Bryant became infuriated
when a Los Angeles Times columnist quoted a Lakers "insider" as
saying it was Bryant's insistence on getting away from O'Neal that
prompted his trade to Miami.

The Lakers haven't won a playoff series since O'Neal left. They
won 26 of their first 39 games last season, but due at least in
part to several injuries, lost 27 of their final 43 to finish
42-40.

Bryant said he feels team owner Jerry Buss misled him right
before he re-signed by telling him one thing and coach Phil Jackson
something else about the team's goals.

Bryant said he was told the Lakers would immediately try to
rejoin the NBA's elite. But he said Jackson told him shortly before
his request to be traded that Buss was not bringing him back as
coach following the 2003-04 season because the team was committed
to reducing payroll and rebuilding long term.

Jackson returned after sitting out one season and is about to
begin the final year of a three-year, $30 million contract. He has
been offered an extension but hasn't made a decision regarding his
future beyond this season.

Jackson said earlier this month that he agreed with Bryant -- the
Lakers still needed more talent to compete for a championship.

"We've made some changes this summer. I think we still have to
make changes to help us out," Jackson said before being inducted
into the Basketball Hall of Fame.