Bryant Rumors Abound

Times Staff Writer

A Nick Van Exel observation, born in the San Jose Mercury News and now making the rounds: "Like Kobe said, he's going to leave. He wants the team to be built around him. He wants to prove he can win it without Shaq, and vice versa."

Problem is, no one can say for sure when Van Exel last spoke to Kobe Bryant, assuming he has in the last year or so.

Amid speculation the Chicago Bulls have offered the Lakers a package that includes Tyson Chandler and Jalen Rose for Bryant, the Chicago Tribune's Sam Smith wondered this week whether Bryant might not join with Michael Jordan and Pat Riley in rebuilding the Miami Heat, and there is the usual puff about Bryant running to Memphis to reunite with Jerry West or to the Clippers to ... well, there's no clear reason for that.

Laker owner Jerry Buss vowed last weekend not to trade Bryant under any circumstance, a sentiment Bryant said he saw and treasured.

"I appreciated it," he said. "He didn't have to do it, but he did it."

Asked whether it might mean something when it comes time to make his decision to leave or not, Bryant nodded and said, "Yeah. But I'll think about that then."

In league circles, however, there is much contemplation over how the Lakers will handle Bryant's intention to opt out of his contract after the season, primarily whether General Manager Mitch Kupchak will choose to get something for Bryant before the Feb. 20 trading deadline or risk losing him as a free agent.

Of course, it is complicated. Bryant hasn't publicly said he would leave the organization, his knee is not yet sound, and there is the further complexity of the felony sexual assault trial that is not yet scheduled.


Shaquille O'Neal was so-so against the Golden State Warriors on Sunday night, so-so being good enough for the Golden State Warriors, but not necessarily for Coach Phil Jackson.

"I was disappointed in the back-to-back," he said. "I shouldn't say anything in the press about Shaquille, because he'll take offense to it. But, I mean, personally, I was disappointed in it. He's always had an advantage against [Erick] Dampier.... I didn't think it was conditioning, though, in the course of the game. We talked a little bit about it afterward. I think it was just methane gas that got him."

Afterward, O'Neal revealed he was groggy at game time and never shook his lethargy.


The Lakers appear to have abandoned their top-heavy scoring habits for the balance of five or six players.

The last Laker team to have six players average double-digit points was in 1997-98. The Sacramento Kings had seven players do it in 2001-02.


Jillian Barberie, the weather girl on "Fox NFL Sunday," described a chance encounter with her current favorite Laker in Southwest Airlines' in-flight magazine: "I was at a hip-hop show in L.A. and met this guy and we had this 10-minute conversation. I asked if he was with the band, and he goes, 'No.' I ask what he does and he says he plays for the three-time champ L.A. Lakers. I ask his name, he says, 'Derek Fisher.' " [Laughs] "Oh yeah, I've heard of you."


Wisdom from Karl Malone, on the merits of scoring from the field or the line: "Two points is two points as far as I'm concerned. Unless you shoot a three."

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