LOS ANGELES, May 30 – Kobe Bryant asked to be traded from the Los Angeles Lakers today, following up on negative comments he made earlier regarding the team’s front office. Bryant was quoted as calling the front office “a mess,” after he suggested that the team pursue Jerry West for a position.
Bryant, who signed a seven-year, $136.4 million contract the day after the team traded Shaquille O’Neal in 2004, has won three championships with the team, but has failed to make it out of the first round since O’Neal’s departure.
Bryant became incensed when a Los Angeles Times reporter quoted a Lakers insider saying that O’Neal was traded because of Bryant’s insistence on having the team for himself. Additionally, it appears that Lakers owner Jerry Buss was telling Bryant that he was committed to winning right away, while at the same time explaining to Head Coach Phil Jackson that the team would go through a rebuilding period.
“[The Lakers] obviously want to move in a different direction in terms of rebuilding,” said Bryant, who had competing offers from the Los Angeles Clippers and the Chicago Bulls when he re-signed with the Lakers. “Three years ago when I was re-signing they should have told me they wanted to rebuild.”
“At this point I’ll go play on Pluto,” was the response Kobe gave to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, who hosted the radio show that led to Bryant’s cry for a trade.
Smith attempted to calm Bryant down by asking if there was anything the Lakers could do to change his mind. Bryant simply replied “no, I just want them to do the right thing.”
Though he does have a no-trade clause, it appears Bryant would be more than happy to waive it to get him out of Los Angeles. He had attempted multiple times to persuade the team to trade for some help, most notably for Carlos Boozer, Jason Kidd, Ron Artest and Jermaine O’Neal. The Lakers were unable to get a deal done for any of the stars, which further led to Bryant’s frustration.
“Promises made to make this team better have not been kept,” said Bryant. “So where does that leave me?”
Bryant’s enormous contract makes it difficult to move him, however, there will certainly be plenty of teams with an interest in acquiring the all-NBA star. “Maybe the Knicks can trade the whole team for him,” said Knicks super-fan Steven Eschelbacher. “I’d do it.”