"I guess it's business before loyalty. But, wow. He said
that?" O'Neal said Thursday in Miami after learning Buss told
reporters he would trade Bryant under the right circumstances.
Buss indeed did, telling three Los Angeles-area beat writers
covering training camp in Honolulu on Wednesday that he "would
certainly listen" to trade offers for the two-time NBA scoring
"At any time, I think you have to do that with anybody," Buss
said, discussing Bryant publicly for the first time since the
often-frustrated Lakers' star asked to be traded at the end of last
season. "It's just part of the game, to listen to somebody who has
a dissatisfied player that you think is going to fit.
"You can't keep too many loyalties. You've got to look at it as
a business. He looks at it the same way I look at it."
Buss made his comments to reporters from the Los Angeles Times,
the Orange County Register and the Riverside Press-Enterprise.
"Dr. Buss's comments today provided more insight to a
conversation we shared in Barcelona earlier this summer," Bryant
said in a statement issued Thursday. "I have touched on this
conversation and other conversations within the Lakers'
organization during the recent months and again at the Lakers'
media day. I have nothing further to add and look forward to the
upcoming season with my teammates."
Lakers coach Phil Jackson said if Kobe stays, he must put the
"My message to Kobe was that if you could play with your heart
in this game, on this team, you'll be fine. If you can't, if you
have divided loyalties, then you can't do it."
When asked if Bryant is focused, Jackson said, "No, he's not.
He's distracted, obviously."
However, Jackson acknowledged Buss must keep to his word to
"His first initial statement was that we're not interested in
trading Kobe Bryant, but when you have a disgruntled player, an
unhappy player or whatever, you have to consider you made that
gentlemen's agreement with Kobe and I think that's appropriate,"
Before Thursday night's exhibition game against Golden State in
Honolulu, some members of the Lakers said they weren't aware of
"I didn't hear them," Lamar Odom said. "For us, we're players
so, you know, I didn't hear the comments myself so I wouldn't know
why there would be a different mood or a different feeling at
Forward Ronny Turiaf agreed that the reports did little to
affect the team.
"We just play basketball. I really have nothing to say, that's
between Kobe and management," he said.
The Lakers won three championships and reached the NBA Finals
four times in five years before O'Neal was traded to the Miami Heat
in July 2004. They haven't won a playoff series since O'Neal left,
and O'Neal has since helped the Heat win the 2006 NBA title.
"Anyone can be traded, but mine was different because I walked
into the office and demanded a trade," O'Neal said. "I don't take
loyalty lightly. If you tell me you're going to do something, I
expect you to do it. And then when you change your mind without
telling me, that means you're disloyal so we can't be down
Bryant has four years worth $88.6 million left on the seven-year
contract he signed a day after O'Neal was traded, but can terminate
the deal in two years. That would leave $47.8 million on the table.
"I tend not to think in basketball terms that many years down
the road because things change so dramatically, but he could test
the waters at that point," Buss said. "If he still is in that
frame of mind, then hopefully we can do a sign-and-trade and get
some comparable talent. I would like to think that we win between
now and then so it doesn't come up."
Following his trade request, Bryant kept a low profile regarding
the Lakers until reporting with his teammates Oct. 1 on media day --
before the team left for Hawaii. Bryant told reporters that
frustration led to his blowup. Otherwise, he said the time had come
to move forward.
Buss recalled an offseason meeting in Barcelona when he tried to
talk Bryant out of the trade request.
"He listened very carefully for 30, 45 minutes," Buss said.
"I tried to explain to him how much the city of Los Angeles loved
him, and that to leave 10 million sweethearts for unknown territory
might not be the right thing to do. But when I was finished, he
said he basically felt the same way. And I said, `OK. With that, I
will proceed to see what's available."'
Buss didn't elaborate other than saying he might have acted on a
trade offer that was "within reason."
"You have to get comparable value when you make a trade," Buss
said. "It's very hard to trade somebody like him because people
who have enough material to make it worthwhile are usually
contenders and they don't want to make the trade."
Buss also said he occasionally told Bryant of certain offers,
none of which he found fair to the Lakers, and acknowledged
frustration at losing out to Boston for Kevin Garnett's services.
"I told him that I would try my best to accommodate his wishes,
but that I could not afford to let him go unless we got comparable
talent -- if there was such a thing," Buss said.
The 29-year-old Bryant is about to begin his 12th NBA season --
all with the Lakers.