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Bryant denies Durant story

Times Staff Writer

Kobe Bryant angrily denied a story in Wednesday’s Dallas Morning News claiming he had contacted University of Texas freshman star Kevin Durant at the direction of the Nike shoe company.

The story is vague about the source of the claim, saying, “Word is Kobe Bryant has already called Kevin Durant on behalf of Nike and that a shoe deal ranging between $30 million and $50 million simply needs to be presented.”

Bryant responded after practice Wednesday at the Lakers’ El Segundo training facility before boarding a plane for Memphis, where the Lakers will play the Grizzlies tonight.

""Don’t print something that’s just completely false,” Bryant said. “That makes no sense whatsoever. It’s really unprofessional.

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“I’ve never spoken to [Durant]. I’ve never seen him. Obviously he’s a phenomenal talent, watching him play on TV a couple of times. But I don’t know him at all.

“I don’t know where they got that story from, where they got that idea from or where they came up with that, but they might want to check their facts first.”

Bryant’s desire to distance himself from the story is understandable considering he has been embroiled in controversy with the NBA and the league has recently disciplined two others whose names have been linked with Durant.

Bryant was given two one-game suspensions and a Flagrant Foul 1 for what was deemed excessive physical contact with three opposing players.

The NBA fined Boston Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge $30,000 for sitting next to Durant’s mother at the Big 12 tournament.

And Michael Jordan, now a part owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, was fined $15,000 after saying, while discussing versatility among potential draft choices with the Charlotte Observer: “The kid who may present that is the kid in Texas. [He] may have that because he has all the right signs.”

Durant is projected as a top pick but has not declared his intention to enter the draft.

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Lakers forward Brian Cook, who has missed three games because of a moderately sprained left ankle, did not accompany the Lakers on their two-game trip, which will also include a stop in New Orleans to play the Hornets on Friday night.

Asked whether this meant Cook had suffered a setback, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said, “No, he’s doing really well. It’s just our per usual with guys with sprained ankles. He’s recovering [but experiencing] what we would customarily expect with a sprained ankle. He’s got some swelling, but he’s doing good.”

--

TONIGHT

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vs. Memphis, 5 PDT, Channel 9

Site -- FedExForum.

Radio -- 570, 1330.

Records -- Lakers 35-32, Grizzlies 17-51.

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Record vs. Grizzlies -- 1-1.

Update -- The Lakers lost in their previous trip to Memphis this season, 128-118. Overall, the Lakers have lost seven of their last nine against the Grizzlies, and six of their last seven in Memphis.

steve.springer@latimes.com


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