Kobe misses third straight practice, questionable for game vs. Sonics
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant sat out practice for the third straight day Tuesday, then denied a report that he had cleaned out his locker -- a story carried by several local news outlets.
Bryant spoke for less than two minutes in the parking lot of the team's practice facility. Previously, he had said very little to reporters since Jerry Buss stated last week in Honolulu that he "would certainly listen" to trade offers for the NBA's scoring leader.
"I don't know, talk to Mitch and Mr. Buss about that," Bryant replied when asked if he had played his final game for the Lakers, referring to general manager Mitch Kupchak and the team's owner. "I'm just getting ready. If I'm here, I'm ready to strap it up."
Bryant asked to be traded 4½ months ago, then avoided speaking about the Lakers until the beginning of training camp Oct. 1, when he talked more positively, saying he was looking forward to the season.
"My job is to play the game and get ready to play the game," he said Tuesday. "That's what I'm doing. I guess people are just intrigued by what's going on around here. I understand that. I have a job to do. One thing I said at training camp was that I didn't want this to be a distraction."
When asked whether he was unsettled by recent events, Bryant said: "It's our understanding not to bring up the situation and not talk about it. We just wanted to keep things quiet and go about our business. It kind of caught me off guard a little bit.
"We've just got to get back to basics and get ready and go from there. It's my job to play basketball. It's not my job to worry about what management is doing or this, that or the other thing. I'm going to be ready and let them do their jobs."
Lakers coach Phil Jackson said Bryant sat out practice Tuesday "by mutual agreement."
"He's in the training room," Jackson said. "I think that's about all I'll say. He asked me about resting his legs, but I think he's OK."
Stein: Kobe departure?
Never before has the departure of Kobe Bryant from the Lakers seemed more likely, Marc Stein writes. Story
Jackson said he didn't know whether Bryant would play Thursday night when the Lakers face the Seattle SuperSonics in Bakersfield -- the first of six exhibition games in nine days. The coach also said he didn't know if Bryant would accompany the team if he doesn't play.
Jackson said he couldn't comment when asked if Bryant had played his final game as a member of the Lakers.
"I don't know that at all. Who knows that? There's certain things that have to be discussed and I think they will be," Jackson said. "There's nothing imminent. I'm on the inside of this, so I know all the statements before you ask the questions. We can't project anything right now. I think there's a certain progression of things we have to go through."
Bryant has four years, worth $88.6 million, left on his contract, but can terminate the deal in two years, leaving $47.8 million on the table.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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