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Old 05-28-2007, 03:02 AM   #1
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Default The Evolution of a story...UPDATED

Saturday morning LA Times

Quote:
Kobe: What's the deal?

Bryant remains frustrated as he waits for Lakers to build a roster to take them to the next level.

By Mike Bresnahan, Times Staff Writer
8:10 PM PDT, May 26, 2007

Twenty-four days later, No. 24 was still simmering.

Time has not tempered the frustration felt by the cornerstone of the Lakers' franchise, who has watched two key teammates — Kwame Brown and Lamar Odom — face medical issues that have thrust their off-season into doubt, as well as many trade possibilities for the team.

The Lakers that were seen at the end of the season might look a lot like those that return for the start of 2007-08, with some minor additions here and there. It isn't sitting well with Kobe Bryant.

"I want to see us get to a contending level," he said Saturday with firmness in his voice. "I want to see us become a championship contender. It's been a frustrating process for me and I'm sure it's been a frustrating process for all Laker fans. I'm just hoping we can get to that level. I'm still frustrated. I'm waiting for them to make some changes."

Bryant, though, didn't want to elaborate on what changes he thought could be made.

It was an extension of what he said in the wake of the Lakers' playoff elimination on May 2, phrases and thoughts at the time that could have initially been chalked up to the sting of losing in five games to the Phoenix Suns. Instead, it's looking like Bryant's views will continue to be part of the backdrop, a marked change from the demeanor of the nine-time All-Star in recent seasons.

Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak declined to comment.

The Lakers have not won a playoff series since beating Minnesota in the 2004 Western Conference finals, but Bryant kept a patient outward manner over the years, often referring to the team's turnaround as a "process" and a "work in progress."

His dissatisfaction mounted as the team tumbled from a 26-13 start, and he eventually voiced signs of public discontent for the first time after a playoff loss to Phoenix in Game 1, saying, "We definitely have to get to that elite level, and get to that elite level, like, now."

Bryant, who has played 11 seasons with the Lakers and will turn 29 in August, has already logged 9,000 more minutes than Michael Jordan at the same age, and it can be argued that his 131 career playoff games increases his actual on-court time to more than 12 1/2 NBA seasons.

Earlier this month, after a meeting with Coach Phil Jackson and General Manager Mitch Kupchak after the Lakers' first-round playoff exit, Bryant expanded his views on the future.

"This is a competitive city," he said. "We're used to winning titles, not just winning games and being in the first round. We want to win championships. Now's the time.

"That's one of the things when I re-signed here, they promised they would build a contender and build a contender now. I don't want to have to wait any more than I already have."


Bryant said Saturday he did not want to be traded. He has a no-trade clause in his contract for what is believed to be two more seasons, although he holds the right to waive it. He still has four years and $88.6 million left on his contract and has the option of terminating the contract in two years, which would leave a hefty $47.8 million on the table.

The Lakers, for their part, don't have many tools for immediate improvement.

They are over the salary cap, which means the only way to drastically change their roster is to make trades, a task that became much harder with recent medical reports on Brown and Odom.

Odom had surgery last week to repair the torn labrum in his left shoulder, a procedure that will require about four months of recovery time. Brown will undergo surgery this week to remove bone spurs in his left ankle, and he might need reconstructive surgery on the ankle that would require a recovery period of several months.

The Western Conference seemingly got stronger last week when Portland and Seattle won the top two picks in the NBA draft lottery, likely adding Greg Oden and Kevin Durant to their rosters.

The Lakers have the 19th pick and two second-round selections in the June 28 draft. They could use the mid-level exception to sign a free agent for up to five years at about $30 million. Separately, they can offer their own free agent, Luke Walton, more than any other team when the free-agent negotiating period begins July 1.

Sunday Morning LA Times

Quote:
The superstar keeps dropping bombs of disappointment, and it's becoming clear that he won't win another title with these Lakers.
May 27, 2007

Can you hear him?

"I'm still frustrated."

Are you listening?

"I'm waiting for them to make some changes."

Do you understand what Kobe Bryant was saying Saturday in an interview with The Times' Mike Bresnahan?

Bryant is still frustrated even though the Lakers have had nearly a month to calm him.

Bryant is still demanding changes even though he knows surgeries to trade-worthy Kwame Brown and Lamar Odom will prevent them from making changes.

Can you hear him?

Kobe Bryant is asking the Lakers to soothe him beyond their ability and trade beyond their resources.

Could it be that he is asking for something else entirely?

Could Kobe Bryant be asking for a trade without asking for a trade?

Sounds like it.

Sounds exactly like it.

Sounds like Bryant heard the expected bad news about Odom, the surprise bad news about Brown, the stunning lottery news that has Greg Oden and Kevin Durant coming to the Western Conference, and he knows.

He knows his chances of winning another championship here during his prime are now officially nearing zero.

He knows that the Lakers' best trade option this summer is now him.

He knows that if he publicly demands a trade, the Lakers would scold him and fans would skewer him.

So he continues to drop little bombs of dissatisfaction like he drops three-point shots, quick and unexpected and chilling.

Bryant clearly stated Saturday that he had not asked for a trade.

But those little bombs have finally backed the Lakers into a corner out of which the only exit is to trade him.

And you know something? It's time. They should do it. It hurts to even write the words. But they should do it.

Bryant is the most entertaining athlete in American sports, a perfect fit for America's entertainment capital.

But Los Angeles is also about winning. And the smart Lakers fans are about winning. And as constituted, the Lakers cannot get past the first round with Bryant, much less win a championship with him.

His high salary keeps them from getting a second superstar needed to win. Poor trades have left the lineup bereft of the top role players needed to win. And with Bryant on the floor, the Lakers will always be barely too good for a lottery draft pick needed to win.

What many fearfully suspected when Jerry Buss handed Bryant the franchise three years ago has been proven true.

Bryant has given Los Angeles fans wonderful moments but, asked to carry an ordinary team, he cannot give them championship moments.

Given his understandable unhappiness, Bryant's most enduring value is now in the players that can be acquired for him.

Bryant began hinting at his unrest during the embarrassing playoff series against Phoenix, when I asked him about his desire to win another championship before age robs his ability.

"We definitely have to get to that elite level, and get to that elite level, like, now," he said then.

After his postseason meeting with Lakers bosses, he spoke again about wanting to be a champion again.

"I don't want to wait any more than I already have," he said.

He drove home from the facility and waited around for good news and what happened? Nothing but bad.

Lamar Odom's shoulder injury was as awful as expected, ending his chances of being an attractive trade commodity this summer.

Kwame Brown's ankle injury is feared to be worse than expected, also probably ending his chances of being traded.

Portland won the draft lottery and franchise center Oden, meaning it could be a playoff team next season.

Seattle won the second choice in the lottery, which it will certainly use on franchise scorer Durant, also changing its fortunes.

Bryant saw all this, knew that the Lakers' immediate future has become even more hopeless, and what did he do?

When Bresnahan contacted him Saturday during a usually calm time in the NBA cycle, Bryant continued to cite his frustration, and continued to ask for change.

Bryant didn't ask for a trade because he is savvy enough to know that such a move would make him a villain again.

Instead, he is seemingly trying to persuade the Lakers to do the one thing they would never, ever do on their own.

General Manager Mitch Kupchak has said hundreds of times that he would never trade Bryant. But if Kupchak thinks he doesn't have a choice?

He could make a deal and hint that Bryant was unhappy, thus relieving himself of the blame. Bryant could — and would — nullify his no-trade clause, thus supporting Kupchak's claim.

The Lakers could acquire another superstar and a couple of top draft picks, rebuild the team like it was once rebuilt with Shaquille O'Neal and Bryant, and everyone would be happy.

Kupchak would not talk about such a scenario. In fact, when contacted by Lakers officials on Saturday, the amiable Kupchak politely refused to do any sort of interview on the subject.

He said he had already answered these questions, and he was right.

The problem is, he has no answers.

About Bryant's frustration, Kupchak earlier said, "We feel exactly the same way."

About his off-season plans, Kupchak said, "We're going to be as aggressive as we've always been."

The answer, of course, would be to never trade Shaquille O'Neal, but Kupchak had no choice. If Bryant indeed feels the way he sounds, Kupchak has no choice again.

Critics will wail that it's all so unfair and unseemly. Critics will say that once again, the Lakers are bowing to the mantra that what Kobe wants, Kobe gets.

Only this time, Kobe is right.

Last edited by gts : 05-28-2007 at 03:58 PM.
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Old 05-28-2007, 03:05 AM   #2
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Default Re: The Evolution of a story...

Sunday Afternoon ESPN
Quote:
Kobe Bryant isn't happy with the Lakers' direction and wants Jerry West back in Los Angeles to fix things.

Bryant told ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher that he wants the Lakers to bring West back to the organization and give him full authority. If the Lakers don't want to do that, Bryant said he wants to be traded.

Bryant is frustrated that the team has not made any significant moves since it re-signed him.

"I want to see us get to a contending level," he told The Los Angeles Times. "I want to see us become a championship contender. It's been a frustrating process for me and I'm sure it's been a frustrating process for all Laker fans. I'm just hoping we can get to that level. I'm still frustrated. I'm waiting for them to make some changes."

Mitch Kupchak is the current Lakers general manager.

West, who spent five seasons in Memphis, will leave his post as the Grizzlies' director of basketball operations July 1 at the end of his contract. West helped build the Lakers' dynasty in the '80s and engineered their rebirth in the '90s, overseeing seven NBA championship teams -- including back-to-back champions in 1987-1988 and three consecutive crowns from 2000-2002.

In Memphis, West never had the advantages he enjoyed in the large market of Los Angeles, where he signed Shaquille O'Neal and traded Vlade Divac for Bryant.

Bryant averaged 31.6 points per game in 2007 as the Lakers qualified for the seventh seed in the Western Conference with a 42-40 record. Los Angeles lost in five games to the Suns, however, and the Lakers haven't won a championship since O'Neal was traded to the Heat.

Sunday Evening ESPN with changes in Bold

Quote:
Kobe Bryant isn't happy with the Lakers' direction and wants Jerry West back in Los Angeles to fix things.

Bryant told ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher that he wants the Lakers to bring West back to the organization and give him full authority. If the Lakers don't want to do that, Bryant said he wants to be traded.

Bryant is frustrated that the team has not made any significant moves since it re-signed him.

"I want to see us get to a contending level," he told The Los Angeles Times. "I want to see us become a championship contender. It's been a frustrating process for me and I'm sure it's been a frustrating process for all Laker fans. I'm just hoping we can get to that level. I'm still frustrated. I'm waiting for them to make some changes."


West, who spent five seasons in Memphis, will leave his post as the Grizzlies' director of basketball operations July 1 at the end of his contract. West helped build the Lakers' dynasty in the '80s and engineered their rebirth in the '90s, overseeing seven NBA championship teams -- including back-to-back champions in 1987-1988 and three consecutive crowns from 2000-2002.

"I haven't thought about it at all until Kobe brought it up today. My main priority is to [Grizzlies owner] Mike Heisley and to finish up with the Memphis Grizzlies," West told ESPN's Jim Gray on Sunday night. "I am fiercely loyal to Mike, as I am to Mitch Kupchak. Having said that, I'm a lifelong Laker and we will see what happens."
In Memphis, West never had the advantages he enjoyed in the large market of Los Angeles, where he signed Shaquille O'Neal and traded Vlade Divac for Bryant.

Bryant averaged 31.6 points per game in 2007 as the Lakers qualified for the seventh seed in the Western Conference with a 42-40 record. Los Angeles lost in five games to the Suns, however, and the Lakers haven't won a championship since O'Neal was traded to the Heat.

Last edited by gts : 05-28-2007 at 03:08 AM.
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Old 05-28-2007, 03:06 AM   #3
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Default Re: The Evolution of a story...

Monday Edition LA Times

Quote:
Bryant has maintained a relationship with West since his NBA career began and made no secret of his desire for the Lakers to bring him on board, which could be awkward for General Manager Mitch Kupchak, who was West's protege.

"My feeling on Jerry West is I trust him completely," Bryant said. "I don't want to get into people believing me to be bashing anybody.

"Mitch is a great guy. All I can go by is what has happened with this team the last two years, and I know Jerry West is a guy who's great at what he does.

"He wants to win and he wants to win right now. I can roll with that, even if we don't have the complete turnaround we're hoping to have this summer. Just having him back in the nucleus will help."

Lakers officials declined to comment about West, who will complete an up-and-down five-year run as the Memphis Grizzlies' director of basketball operations when his contract expires July 1.

The Lakers couldn't begin negotiations with West until that time, although a source close to West said he might simply choose to retire.

If not, West would have to consider whether to return to the team. West and Kupchak are close friends, and West would have to weigh the public's perception and Kupchak's feelings of such a move as undermining Kupchak's authority, even if West returns only as a consultant.

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson would be fine with West returning, said a source close to Jackson, despite the fact West and Jackson were not on overly friendly terms when West stepped down in 2000.


Bryant said he did not link his future with the Lakers to the hiring of West, as ESPN.com reported Sunday. He has not asked for a trade and did not foresee seeking one if West was not hired.

"I would love for him to be a part of this," Bryant said. "But it's not something where I demand he comes here. All I can do is offer my thoughts. I love being a Laker. I want to retire a Laker. I want to fix this thing, or at least help any way I can."

ESPN Monday

Quote:
Kobe Bryant definitely would like Jerry West back with the Lakers, but the star guard denied an ESPN report that he'd welcome a trade from the team if the Lakers aren't willing to make that happen.

"I'm not demanding anything," Bryant told the Riverside Press-Enterprise on Sunday night. "I'm not making any threats. I didn't say that. Those words didn't come out of my mouth about a trade. I'm just making a suggestion. I think Jerry West is one of the greatest to ever do this thing. It's undeniably so."

Bryant told ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher Sunday that he wants the Lakers to bring West back to the organization and give him full authority. If the Lakers don't want to do that, Bryant said he would be willing to waive his no-trade clause and welcome a trade from the only organization he has played for in the NBA.

Bryant also told The Los Angeles Times that he was just making a suggestion and not a demand that West return to the Lakers.

"I would love for him to be a part of this," Bryant told the newspaper. "But it's not something where I demand he comes here. All I can do is offer my thoughts. I love being a Laker. I want to retire a Laker. I want to fix this thing, or at least help any way I can."

Byrant told The Orange County Register that he wan't trying to slam current Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak or vice president Jim Buss, who is the son of owner Jerry Buss, by calling for West's return.

"It shouldn't say anything at all about them. It should speak to Jerry West's brilliance. I'm not trying to throw Mitch under the bus or Jim under the bus," Bryant told the newspaper.

"My wife is from here, I love it here, and I've been a Laker fan my whole life," Bryant told the newspaper. "My focus is on doing what I can to get this franchise back to where it should be. What I want to do is win with the Los Angeles Lakers and get us back to prominence."

West, who spent five seasons in Memphis, will leave his post as the Grizzlies' director of basketball operations July 1 at the end of his contract. West helped build the Lakers' dynasty in the '80s and engineered their rebirth in the '90s, overseeing seven NBA championship teams -- including back-to-back champions in 1987-1988 and three consecutive crowns from 2000-2002.

"I haven't thought about it at all until Kobe brought it up today. My main priority is to [Grizzlies owner] Mike Heisley and to finish up with the Memphis Grizzlies," West told ESPN's Jim Gray on Sunday night. "I am fiercely loyal to Mike, as I am to Mitch Kupchak. Having said that, I'm a lifelong Laker and we will see what happens
."

ESPN Monday M Stein

Quote:
Kobe Bryant can count on getting some of what he's demanding from the Lakers.


That's the feeling I'm getting from Lakerland in the wake of the blast reported Sunday by our own Ric Bucher: Kobe wants Jerry West to return as the organization's lead decision-maker if the Lakers expect Kobe to stay with them.


Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Back on April 11, 2005, Kobe Bryant and Jerry West talk before a game in Los Angeles.

The most likely scenario as of Sunday night, according to team sources, is that West will indeed rejoin the Lakers as a consultant this summer after becoming a front-office free agent on July 1. This has been circulating as a possibility since the Lakers' first-round series with Phoenix. Only now, with a public plea from one of his favorite all-time players virtually upstaging the playoffs, it'll be even tougher for West to resist a homecoming.


However . . .


Club insiders stress that West is unlikely to come back to the job full-time. Very unlikely.


For a couple reasons.


For starters, West turns 69 on Monday. He has a house waiting in L.A. when his Grizzlies contract expires at the end of June, but he also has a house waiting in his native West Virginia, where son Jonnie will be playing for the Mountaineers next season. So West, at best, would consent to split time between the two homes if he can be convinced to put off retirement and rejoin his old team.


As you've undoubtedly read and heard often, West is also fiercely loyal. The thought of bumping off his under-fire protégé, Mitch Kupchak, is sure to turn him off. So even with Kobe imploring him to be the Lakers' savior, it's difficult to see West returning unless it's in a role that helps Kupchak.


As a consultant, West can do just that. It's a reacquisition Kupchak would have to welcome after three rough years since Shaquille O'Neal was traded away, if only because it would deflect some of the serious heat he's getting from all angles these days . . . most notably from Kobe himself. West and Kupchak, furthermore, are so close that West would inevitably have more than enough say in shaping the roster to appease Bryant.


The challenge, then, is getting everyone in the equation comfortable with the idea that West will undoubtedly be perceived to be in charge without officially being in charge. Although it might not be the challenge you'd anticipate when you read the last bit of West's statement Sunday night to ESPN's Jim Gray: ". . . I'm a lifelong Laker and we will see what happens."


As for potential protest from Phil Jackson? Not an issue. As discussed here in early May, I'm told that Jackson wouldn't oppose the reunion, knowing that the Lakers need as many good personnel ideas as they can muster to improve their roster in a brutal conference that, as you might have heard, just signed up Greg Oden and Kevin Durant.


Which brings us to Bryant's real problem.


The Lakers aren't the New York Yankees. Jerry Buss isn't George Steinbrenner. The NBA doesn't work like the baseball or the NFL.


Kobe can call for big changes as loudly as he wants, but he can't restructure his contract football-style to give money back because that's not allowed in this league, and Buss can't just break out the checkbook to sign the hoops equivalent of Roger Clemens. Bryant has an opt-out clause in his contract in the summer of 2009 -- two seasons from now -- and the Lakers' salary-cap situation is such that they're not going to make a significant improvement in that span without a major trade.


Yet you can see what Kobe's thinking. The likelihood of a blockbuster move can only increase if West is part of the wheeling-and-dealing. Right?


The sort of deal, namely, that the Lakers haven't been able to consummate since Shaq left, missing out on the likes of Baron Davis, Ron Artest and Jason Kidd. The sort of maneuver that, in West's day, always seemed to materialize to rescue the Lakers from their brief down periods.

Last edited by gts : 05-28-2007 at 03:55 PM.
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Old 05-28-2007, 11:39 AM   #4
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Default Re: The Evolution of a story...

Nice thread Speedy and so true... amazing how stories evolve... it was just a slow news week for the Lakers and bleedin got his wish!



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