Sports

Kobe Bryant backs off trade talk

Los Angeles’ Kobe Bryant, who helped the Lakers win three consecutive NBA championships, has four years left on the seven-year, $136.4 million contract he signed July 15, 2004.
Los Angeles’ Kobe Bryant, who helped the Lakers win three consecutive NBA championships, has four years left on the seven-year, $136.4 million contract he signed July 15, 2004. AP

So Kobe Bryant wants to be traded to Pluto, Kobe and Shaq are best buddies, Jerry Buss has become Lindsay Lohan, and basically all heck has broken loose in Lakerland.

Three years removed from his ugly feud with Shaquille O’Neal, Bryant has turned his toxicity on the entire Lakers organization, specifically the general manager he is trying to get fired, Mitch Kupchak.

“I’ve been quiet long enough,” Bryant told The Philadelphia Inquirer in a story published Wednesday.

Really? Bryant’s comments came only a couple of days after he directly insulted Kupchak by suggesting to ESPN The Magazine that Jerry West should be brought back to fix the team.

Bryant backed off the comments when speaking to The Los Angeles Times, saying, “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.”

Then came a Times story Monday in which a “Lakers insider” was paraphrased about Kobe’s insistence on being separated from Shaq three years ago.

So Kobe, ostensibly offended by a throwaway line in the 20th paragraph of a newspaper article, has been keeping a grueling media schedule to set the record straight: Buss told him back in 2004 he was trading Shaq because he didn’t want to pay him, not because he couldn’t get along with Kobe. Shaq was quoted as saying he believes Kobe “1,000 percent.”

And here we thought Kobe was from Mars and Shaq was from Venus.

“I think Shaq’s being kind, frankly,“ said a former GM familiar with how the Shaq- Kobe situation went down. “I think they made a decision that they could keep one or the other. Part of the reason they made the decision was financial. But the other part was that Kobe was in a public feud with Shaq.”

Now Kobe is saying the Lakers’ brass — read, Kupchak — lied to him about how quickly the team would try to make another championship run. He fails to mention he signed with the Lakers because they could pay him $136 million and the Clippers couldn’t.

Anyway, the “help” Kobe spoke of came Wednesday, and you have to at least give him props for his multi-platform approach to creating a media firestorm.

On the same day his most definitive trade demand was printed in his hometown Philadelphia paper, Bryant unburdened himself even further in a couple of rambling, inconsistent interviews on ESPN Radio.

He reiterated the trade demand and said his agent has relayed it to Kupchak. He took another shot at Kupchak by saying he’d back off the trade talk if West were brought in. Then he strangely admitted Phil Jackson was able to talk him down with assurances his “trust issues” with the organization would be addressed.

Within hours, Bryant went from, “At this point, I’ll go play on Pluto,” to, “I want to be a Laker. I want to be here for the rest of my career.”

Once all the posturing dies down, Kobe won’t be going anywhere — unless all of this gibberish has earned him a shot at Rosie’s seat on “The View.”

“I think Kobe’s talking out of frustration right now and he’s not thinking this through,” the former GM said. “It would be hard to acquire Kobe and not decimate your team. If he gets traded to a team like Atlanta, is he going to be happy?”

Bryant has a no-trade clause, which of course he would waive only if the Lakers found an acceptable destination. He also has a $13 million trade kicker, which his new team would have to pick up in addition to the $89 million he has left over the next four years. He can opt out in 2009, leaving $47 million on the table.

Would Portland trade the No. 1 pick (Greg Oden) and Zach Randolph for Kobe? Maybe. Would the GM-to-be-named-later in Seattle trade the No. 2 pick and Ray Allen for Kobe? Maybe. But his name better be Jerry West.

Would the Knicks ... OK, stop. Only one scenario is more farfetched than that.

“It would almost be poetic justice if Kobe wound up in Miami with Shaq,” my former exec said.

Kobe has a better chance of playing on Pluto, and he would hate it there, too. There are no radio stations.

Distributed by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service.

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