Team unsure of Bryant's training camp plans

Updated: August 8, 2003, 2:47 AM ET
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Lakers are considering changing the way they deal with the media this season because of the circuslike atmosphere the Kobe Bryant case figures to create.

Question Of The Day
The Los Angeles Lakers don't have a lot of answers about Kobe Bryant's plans for training camp, but they did have a response for the reporter who requested an interview with Chick Hearn.

CNN asked to speak with the legendary play-by-play announcer, who died a year ago at 85 after a fall at his home. The Lakers politely explained why Hearn was unavailable.

It may not be the last time the Lakers have to deal with, er, unusual requests. With the additonal media coverage stemming from Bryant's legal issues, they'll have to cope with reporters who know something about legal issues but little of sports.

- Associated Press

Team spokesman John Black said Thursday the team might make adjustments, including the possibility of traveling with two public relations representatives on road trips rather than one.

The Lakers don't have many answers concerning Bryant's plans for training camp, and even those who can talk about Bryant were keeping quiet or not saying much in the aftermath of the 24-year-old star's brief appearance in an Eagle, Colo., courtroom on Wednesday.

Training camp begins Sept. 30 in Honolulu.

Veterans, including Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal and newcomers Karl Malone and Gary Payton, are scheduled to report Oct. 2.

The first full practice will be held the following day, and the Lakers face Golden State in exhibition games Oct. 7-8 before returning to Los Angeles the same day -- Oct. 9 -- that Bryant has his preliminary hearing on a sexual assault charge.

Black said following Bryant's hearing Wednesday it was too early to know how training camp will be affected.

"We'll sit down with Kobe at some point when it makes sense to do that and discuss his plans with him at that time," Black said.

A call Thursday to Bryant's agent, Rob Pelinka, was referred to the Colorado office of attorneys Pamela Mackey and Hal Haddon, where a spokeswoman said no interviews were being granted.

The coverage might be unprecedented, but the Lakers have dealt with media mobs before. The franchise was in the spotlight during the Showtime era of the 1980s and engaged in memorable clashes in the NBA Finals with Philadelphia, Boston and Detroit.

There also was Magic Johnson's retirement in 1991 when he announced he was HIV positive, and his ensuing comebacks.

Phil Jackson was hired as coach in June 1999 and the Lakers won three straight championships from 2000-2002 despite a Bryant-O'Neal feud midway through the 2000-01 season that fueled scrutiny of the team.

Now there's the Bryant case.

Malone's agent, Dwight Manley, said he believes Bryant's situation will probably draw the Lakers closer.

Training camp figured to draw considerable attention -- even before Bryant was arrested -- due to the additions of Malone and Payton. With Malone, Payton, Bryant and O'Neal, the Lakers were considered favorites to make it four championships in five years.

"When a family has a member wounded, they all kind of rally around," Manley said. "They'll probably be very protective of him and his privacy. In the case of him being the young guy of the four superstars on the team, it kind of should work pretty well to have those three guys as your protective family members.

"I know speaking for Karl, he looks at Kobe being a teammate as the same thing as being one of his own family members or one of his own children."

At age 40, Malone is just about old enough to be Bryant's father.


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press

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