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Deal or no deal? Bryant just plays on

Times Staff Writer

SAN ANTONIO -- It has been a quiet couple of weeks on the Kobe Bryant front -- almost eerily quiet, actually -- but the Lakers haven’t had any trade discussions of significance in recent weeks.

Bryant has not stepped back from his trade demand. Nor has he rescinded his no-trade clause, which would open up a whole new list of possibilities.

So he exists with the Lakers, and they with him, unless an apt offer pops up before the Feb. 21 trade deadline. If not, he will be under contract with the Lakers for at least the 2008-09 season before he can terminate his deal.

The results on the court have been mixed for the team, but typically solid for Bryant.

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He has a fan in Coach Phil Jackson, who issued a direct challenge before the season by saying it appeared Bryant hadn’t “thrown his heart and soul into performing on the floor.”

Almost three weeks later, Jackson likes what he sees.

“I’m very impressed,” he said before the Lakers’ 107-92 loss Tuesday to San Antonio. “He’s [put] a lot of energy in this team. He’s been vocal. It’s been going good for him.”

So that’s a good sign?

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“No, it’s a bad sign,” Jackson said, his sarcasm drawing laughs from reporters.

“I think with Lamar [Odom] back and [Bryant’s] role of being a captain, all that has kind of brought him into being involved, being a part of this,” Jackson added. “It’s about involvement, about not being detached and about investing yourself.”

The return to the scene of Derek Fisher’s famous “0.4" shot brought up all the nostalgia questions.

Although the Lakers were the beneficiaries that night against San Antonio in the 2004 Western Conference semifinals, Jackson was asked if he had noticed how much the fortunes of the two teams had changed. The Spurs have won two championships and the Lakers have not won a playoff series the last three seasons.

“I think we kind of knew what was going to happen in L.A.,” Jackson said. “I think the owner [Jerry Buss] understood that there was a championship left in Shaquille [O’Neal’s] legacy, maybe two. Who knows? But the fact is they made that choice for the way the NBA is structured now and the way the cap and all these other things go on.

“Our owner is a single-business ownership. It’s a whole different financial status and struggle that they have to go through. That was a hard decision, a tough one to make, but one that probably this guy would do nine out of 10 times.”

TONIGHT

at Houston, 6, Channel 9, ESPN

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Site -- Toyota Center.

Radio -- 570; 1330.

Records -- Lakers 3-3; Rockets 6-2.

Record vs. Rockets -- 0-1.

Update -- A late 12-0 run by the Lakers in the season opener wasn’t enough to beat the Rockets, who won, 95-93, after Shane Battier made a three-pointer with 2.5 seconds left.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com


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