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Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Lakers unmoved by Kobe's on-camera criticism of club

ESPN.com news services

LOS ANGELES -- Intentional or not, Kobe Bryant seems to be doing everything he can to pressure the Los Angeles Lakers into trading him.

So far, it doesn't appear to be working.

The latest twist in the Bryant saga involves an amateur video of the nine-time All-Star denouncing general manager Mitch Kupchak and teammate Andrew Bynum.

Lakers spokesman John Black said the team was contacted about the video before Bryant first requested to be traded on May 30.

"It doesn't change our stance at all," Black said a day after saying essentially the same thing -- that the team has no plans to trade the two-time defending NBA scoring champion.

"These people called us about a month ago, they told us they wanted to sell it, we told them we had no interest in buying it," Black said. "That's the end of the story. There's been no further contact between them and us."

Kupchak declined further comment, saying, "I think enough has been said."

A spokesman for the men trying to peddle the video to media outlets told the New York Times they were talking with Bryant when one decided to take a photograph and some video, but they didn't believe Bryant was aware they were filming.

According to the Times, the video lasts 24 seconds -- an interesting coincidence since Bryant wears No. 24 and his personal web site is www.kb24.com.

The men did offer to sell the video to ESPN, but the network declined.

The Lakers passed up a possible opportunity to acquire star guard Jason Kidd from the New Jersey Nets at the trade deadline in February because they didn't want to part with the 19-year-old Bynum -- a 7-footer taken with the 10th overall pick in the draft two years ago.

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"Are you kidding me?" Bryant says in the video before using several profanities in adding that the Lakers should "ship out" Bynum.

Bryant also spoke in negative tones about Kupchak. Bryant called the Lakers' front office "a mess" in a radio interview the day before first making public his desire to be traded.

The Times said the video's owners turned down an offer from a Lakers fan to buy it and keep it private. Instead, the newspaper said, they plan to make it public by the end of the week provided enough money can be raised through Web donations, then charge $1.99 through their Web site.

Lakers owner Jerry Buss spoke with Bryant by telephone a day after the trade request and issued a statement saying: "We will continue to pursue every avenue possible to improve our team with [Bryant] as the cornerstone."

Owner and player met face-to-face last Friday in Barcelona, and while Black declined to reveal details, the Los Angeles Times and Riverside Press-Enterprise quoted sources as saying Bryant still wanted out.

On the day he made his initial trade request, Bryant backed off somewhat after speaking with Lakers coach Phil Jackson, although that turned out to be a temporary stance.

Jackson told the Los Angeles Times he believes Bryant will remain with the team.

"He's made a decision that he feels justified to hold -- one that I've questioned -- that he has reasons to leave the Lakers," Jackson wrote in an e-mail published Tuesday. "However, it's my unshakable feeling that Kobe will be a Laker next October -- when training camp opens."

The 61-year-old Jackson has one year left on his $30 million, three-year contract. Kupchak said he has had talks with Jackson regarding an extension since the season ended.

"It was discussed again, it's really up to Phil," Kupchak said. "We'd like to extend his existing arrangement."

Jackson spent three hours in the office Tuesday, a week after surgery on his left hip. He had right hip replacement surgery last October.

"I think he'll be fine," Kupchak said. "It's unusual to have two, that's a little bit of a concern. He should be in much better shape this year than a year ago."

Bryant has a no-trade clause in his contract, meaning he would have a say in where he goes should the Lakers ultimately make such a decision.

Several messages left for Bryant's agent, Rob Pelinka, haven't been returned. Pelinka told ESPN.com late last week that his client's position "remains unchanged. Kobe would like to be moved."

Bryant, who turns 29 in August, has four years remaining on his contract worth $88.6 million, although he can terminate the deal in two years.