Paxson says Bulls out of Kobe trade talks -- for now
DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Chicago Bulls general manager John Paxson said that trade talks on Kobe Bryant with the Los Angeles Lakers have ended for now and downplayed the notion that the teams were ever on the verge of a deal.
"There's not a deal done," he said Thursday. "There's not going to be a deal done. All the things that were out there were really unfair to all of us who were trying to do our jobs. The misinformation ... I think gets in the way of the process. It's just such a complicated thing and we kind of put it to rest now."
Paxson said they discussed "parameters," but the sides "never got down to the nuts and bolts of it because there was never a deal to be done. That's the reality of it."
But Paxson was quoted in the Chicago Sun-Times Thursday as saying he could not rule out the possibility of reopening talks on Bryant.
"'Who knows?" he said. "'The reality now is it's done. There are a lot of people out there searching for information, and it becomes ridiculous half the time. I'm not going to separate fact from fiction because there's so much fiction out there."
Paxson expressed concern that the flurry of rumors surrounding Bryant would have an adverse affect on his team's focus and execution.
"It's like this every trade deadline, too," he said in the Sun-Times story. "People want to get a story, and they'll go to any limit. I didn't see myself quoted or anybody from the Lakers quoted. I wanted to try and go through this the right way. The fortunate thing is I know what really happened and [Lakers GM] Mitch Kupchak knows what really happened, and that's all that really matters."
Bryant drew some boos during introductions before the Lakers' season-opening 95-93 loss to Houston on Tuesday, after calling the front office a mess and asking to be traded during the offseason. The jeers turned to cheers as Bryant scored 18 of his 45 points in the fourth quarter to lead a comeback.
The trade deadline isn't until February, so it's possible talks between the Lakers and Bulls could resume.
"I think today sends a message that our guys don't have to worry about anything right now," Paxson said.
Then again, coach Scott Skiles wondered: "What's resolving anything in all sports until the trading deadline?"
"Just because this rumor at some point dies down, does that mean another one's not going to crop up in two weeks?" he asked. "It's ongoing, it's all the time. Now, this is one that involves a very, very high profile player, so I understand the extra attention on it."
With the rumors swirling, Chicago played a flat first half and was just as bad at the end in losing the season opener 112-103 at New Jersey on Wednesday. Just about every Bull's name has surfaced in rumors, and Luol Deng acknowledged the Kobe questions are wearing on him.
"I am," he said when asked if he's annoyed by them. "But you guys want to get to the bottom of it so I've just got to keep answering your questions."
Several issues stand in the way of a Bryant deal.
Bryant has a no-trade clause and can opt out in the summer 2009, although he has said he wouldn't mind playing in Chicago.
ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan, citing a source with knowledge of the trade talks, reported Wednesday that Bryant continually threatened to veto almost any deal in which Deng would be included. Bryant wants to be sure that the team he joins has enough talent remaining to compete for the NBA title.
Paxson does not want to gut his roster or part with Deng, who appeared to be on the verge of stardom last season.
Paxson and Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf met with Bryant when he was a free agent in 2004. He wound up re-signing with the Lakers for seven years and $136.4 million, with that opt-out clause.
"He liked what he heard," Paxson said. "For that reason, he likes the Chicago Bulls, which is obviously flattering."
But he apparently won't be joining them in the near future.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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