Lakers owner Jerry Buss has finally made statements concerning the future of his star and franchise player Kobe Bryant.
Buss indeed did, telling three Los Angeles-area beat writers covering training camp in Honolulu on Wednesday that he “would certainly listen” to trade offers for the two-time NBA scoring champion.
“At any time, I think you have to do that with anybody,” Buss said, discussing Bryant publicly for the first time since the often-frustrated Lakers’ star asked to be traded at the end of last season. “It’s just part of the game, to listen to somebody who has a dissatisfied player that you think is going to fit.
“You can’t keep too many loyalties. You’ve got to look at it as a business. He looks at it the same way I look at it.”
Shaq said….”I guess it’s business before loyalty. But, wow. He said that?”
Bryant has four years worth $88.6 million left on the seven-year contract he signed a day after O’Neal was traded, but can terminate the deal in two years. That would leave $47.8 million on the table.
“I tend not to think in basketball terms that many years down the road because things change so dramatically, but he could test the waters at that point,” Buss said. “If he still is in that frame of mind, then hopefully we can do a sign-and-trade and get some comparable talent. I would like to think that we win between now and then so it doesn’t come up.”
“You have to get comparable value when you make a trade,” Buss said. “It’s very hard to trade somebody like him because people who have enough material to make it worthwhile are usually contenders and they don’t want to make the trade.”
Buss also said he occasionally told Bryant of certain offers, none of which he found fair to the Lakers, and acknowledged frustration at losing out to Boston for Kevin Garnett‘s services.
“I told him that I would try my best to accommodate his wishes, but that I could not afford to let him go unless we got comparable talent — if there was such a thing,” Buss said.
The 29-year-old Bryant is about to begin his 12th NBA season — all with the Lakers.
“Dr. Buss’s comments today provided more insight to a conversation we shared in Barcelona earlier this summer,” Bryant said in a statement issued Thursday. “I have touched on this conversation and other conversations within the Lakers’ organization during the recent months and again at the Lakers’ media day. I have nothing further to add and look forward to the upcoming season with my teammates.”
Lakers coach Phil Jackson said if Kobe stays, he must put the distractions aside.
“My message to Kobe was that if you could play with your heart in this game, on this team, you’ll be fine. If you can’t, if you have divided loyalties, then you can’t do it.”
When asked if Bryant is focused, Jackson said, “No, he’s not. He’s distracted, obviously.”