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Bryant's back flip
Lakers star decides he wants to stay in Los Angeles after all.
Last Modified: 31 May 2007 09:57 GMT

Kobe Bryant: Not turning his back on the Lakers [GALLO/GETTY]

Just three hours after claiming he wanted to be traded and nothing would change his mind, Los Angeles star Kobe Bryant has decided he wants to remain a Laker.
 
The NBA All Star says he performed his about face after speaking with head coach Phil Jackson.
 
"I don't want to go anywhere, this is my team," Bryant told KLAC radio.
"I love it here. I called Phil, man, he and I talked, it was an emotional conversation, but he just said, `You know what, Kobe? Let us try to figure this thing out.'
 
"Phil is a guy I lean on a lot."

Only hours earlier, in an interview with ESPN radio, Bryant had said, "I would like to be traded, yeah. Tough as it is to come to that conclusion, there's no other alternative.

"It's rough, man, but I don't see how you can rebuild that trust. I just don't know how you can move forward in that type of situation."

Bryant also told KLAC, the Lakers' flagship station, that he was yet to hear from owner Jerry Buss which he indicated was part of his initial problem.

Building the team around Kobe

Buss then issued a statement saying, "We are aware of the media reports. However, Kobe has not told us directly that he wants to be traded.

"We have made it very clear that we are building our team around Kobe and that we intend for him to be a Laker his entire career. We will speak directly to Kobe and until we do that, we will not comment publicly about this."

Bryant, who helped the Lakers win three consecutive NBA championships, has four years left on the seven-year, $136.4 million contract he signed in July 2004, a day after powerhouse centre Shaquille O'Neal was traded to the Miami Heat.

Bryant has had a series of run-ins with Lakers management recently.

Kobe Bryant: The key figure in the new generation of Lakers showtime [GALLO/GETTY]

On Tuesday, Bryant was infuriated when a Los Angeles Times columnist quoted a Lakers "insider" as saying it was Bryant's insistence on getting away from O'Neal that prompted the trade to Miami.

Bryant said in his radio interview he knew who the so-called insider was, but wouldn't identify the person.

Bryant also said he feels Buss misled him three years ago, right before
he re-signed with the Lakers, by telling him one thing and Jackson something else about the team's goals.

The end of an era

The side was broken up after it lost the 2004 NBA finals to Detroit after previously winning three consecutive titles.

O'Neal was traded, Jackson left and other stalwarts, Karl Malone, Gary
Payton, Derek Fisher, Robert Horry and Rick Fox, went elsewhere or retired.

Since then the former glamour side of the NBA best finish has been a first round exit of the playoffs.

Bryant has repeatedly urged the team at season's end to do what it takes to get back into contention.

On Sunday, he suggested former Lakers general manager Jerry West should return.

West left the team in the summer of 2000 and was succeeded by
Kupchak.

"A mess"

Bryant's anger boiled over on Tuesday, when he did a series of interviews ashing the Lakers.

"That place is a mess," Bryant said, referring to the team's front
office.

"If we're not making strides here to improve this team right now, to
be aggressive in that nature, then what's the point of having me here?"

That same day, the 74 year old Buss was arrested in Carlsbad for investigation of driving under the influence of alcohol.

He was released on bail later in the day.

"The fact of the matter is that many people don't know what really went down when I was approaching free agency because I have stayed quiet about it this whole time," Bryant wrote on his website.

"The real facts are that Dr. Buss requested a meeting with me during the '04 season long before I opted out of my contract, and he told me he had already decided not to extend Shaq, as he was concerned about Shaq's age, fitness and contract demands.

"Dr. Buss made it clear that his decision was final, his mind was made up, and no matter what I decided to do with free agency, he was still going to move Shaq."

O'Neal told the Philadelphia Inquirer he believed Bryant "100 percent."

Source:
Agencies
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