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

Updated: September 28, 2007, 5:06 PM ET
Associated Press

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.

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"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.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press