Saturday, October 27, 2007 Updated: October 28, 3:12 AM ET
Sources: Chicago still the most likely preference for Bryant
By Chris Sheridan ESPN.com
The Kobe Bryant-to-Chicago trade talks are very real, and they've been real for a while.
The Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls have been having daily discussions about Bryant trade possibilities for at least the past week, with Bryant's no-trade clause throwing a unique wrench into the situation, according to sources.
In the months since Kobe Bryant first made his trade request, ESPN.com users have tried thousands of Kobe deals in the ESPN.com Trade Machine.
The Lakers are asking for a package built around Luol Deng, Ben Gordon, Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah, which is more than Chicago is willing to surrender. Also, Bryant would not want to play in Chicago if the Bulls surrendered all four of those players, believing there would not be enough talent left to compete for a championship, and he would veto that trade even if the Bulls and Lakers were both in favor of it.
Further complicating matters is the division within the upper echelon of the Lakers front office, a house divided between the competing desires of owner Jerry Buss, his son, Jim, daughter Jeanie (and her boyfriend, coach Phil Jackson) and general manager Mitch Kupchak. According to sources, one faction seems more determined than ever to part with Bryant, while others still are hanging onto the belief that Bryant can still be persuaded to stay in Los Angeles.
Bryant sat out the Lakers' final exhibition game Friday night in Las Vegas after injuring his right wrist in the Lakers' previous game. It has become an accepted fact around the Lakers that Bryant still wishes to be traded, and two sources with direct knowledge of the ongoing trade discussions said Bryant's preferred -- and most likely -- destination remains Chicago.
So while the NBA's only no-trade clause gives Bryant a substantial amount of leverage in determining his future, it also is hampering the Lakers in their efforts to get something approaching fair value for arguably the best player in the league. One source said the Bulls' supposed opposition to including Deng in any deal had been overstated in recent media reports.
A source told ESPN.com that the likelihood of a Bryant trade before opening night seemed higher a few days ago than it does now, and a deal going down sometime before the end of November now seemed more likely. But the situation remained fluid, and with other teams trying to lobby the Bryant camp to get on the list of his acceptable destinations, the trade possibilities surrounding Bryant only figured to increase in the days leading up to Tuesday night's start of the NBA season.
Jackson said he expected Bryant to play Tuesday night
in the season opener against the Houston Rockets.
Bryant was injured after Utah center Mehmet Okur struck him Tuesday night in an exhibition game in Anaheim.
Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider. The Associated Press contributed to this report.