LOS ANGELES -- Hey, Shaq. Jerry Buss wants to be buddies again.
"I have not spoken to him," Buss said before Sunday night's
game against the New Orleans Hornets. "I did call his agent and
asked if we could have lunch before he left town. I plan on doing
"Right now, his statements indicate he's not in a very good
mood," Buss said with a smile. "He's bigger than I am, so I guess
I'll wait a little bit."
Speaking two days after the Lakers lost to the Detroit Pistons
in the NBA Finals last June, Kupchak told reporters the team would
never trade Bryant, who was about to become an unrestricted free
But Kupchak said the Lakers would trade O'Neal if that's what
the 32-year-old center desired. O'Neal demanded a trade the
following day, and was sent to the Heat for Lamar Odom, Caron Butler and Brian Grant a month later.
Earlier, O'Neal had been upset concerning negotiations for a
contract extension. O'Neal is under contract for $27.7 million this
season and $30.6 million next season. He can opt out next summer if
Buss confirmed that O'Neal was offered around $45 million for
two more years, meaning he would have been under contract for over
$100 million over the next four seasons had he accepted the offer.
"Do I wish he had taken that? I wanted him to take it," Buss
said. "Whether or not I would have still traded him or not, I'm
not sure. It's hard to go back in history."
Buss said he eagerly awaits the Christmas Day game between the
Lakers and Miami Heat -- O'Neal's first against the Lakers since the trade.
"I can't wait. I think that's going to be one of the biggest
games in sports," Buss said.
Buss also said he was "totally satisfied" with the rebuilt
team, which has nine new players on the 15-man roster and a new
coach -- Rudy Tomjanovich.
The Lakers brought a 7-6 record into Sunday night's game.
Bryant signed a seven-year, $136.4 million contract to return,
and Buss believes the Bryant-Odom tandem can be one of the NBA's
Bryant is 26, Odom 25 and both have long-term deals.
Buss has always preferred an entertaining, fast-breaking team.
That being the case, he said he felt a coaching change was needed
after last season.
Phil Jackson guided the Lakers to three championships in his
five years on the job.
"I always felt in the season that it was a situation that had
run its course," Buss said. "It was a great five years, but it
was over. I'm not sure when I came to that conclusion. I think Phil
might have retired, anyway."
Buss said he respected Bryant for not reacting to criticism from
Jackson in his recently published book and from O'Neal in several