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Amateur hour

Kobe's videotaped criticism of Lakers adds to saga

Posted: Tuesday June 19, 2007 1:17PM; Updated: Tuesday June 19, 2007 7:03PM
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Kobe Bryant reportedly would accept a trade to the Bulls, Knicks or Suns.
Kobe Bryant reportedly would accept a trade to the Bulls, Knicks or Suns.
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Move over, Paris Hilton. Kobe Bryant is joining you on the list of real-life Hollywood soap operas -- right down to a controversial amateur videotape.

The ongoing Bryant saga took another strange twist Sunday when a posting on his Web site seemed to indicate that he was still unhappy about the direction of the Lakers and wanted to be traded.

It turns out the posting was actually weeks old, and it was removed from the site Monday. But the fact that it had been reposted in the first place -- just days after Bryant met face-to-face with team owner Jerry Buss in Spain -- had the NBA's rumor mill spinning like crazy.

Now comes word that a video will soon be released in which Bryant is heard criticizing Lakers management and the 19-year-old center Andrew Bynum. Bryant, apparently unaware he was being videotaped, made the comments several weeks ago to some fans at a local shopping center. They shopped it to the media for weeks (to no avail), but now plan to offer it on a pay-per-view basis on a Web site.

The Lakers, naturally, are not amused. L.A. had thought the Bryant storm had blown over, especially after the 28-year-old star spoke with coach Phil Jackson last month. Afterward he seemed to back off his earlier statements that he wanted out of L.A.

A Lakers spokesman on Monday reiterated that nothing had changed from the organization's perspective. L.A. still wanted to build around Bryant, he said, and the team had no plans to trade him.

Still, word of Bryant's renewed displeasure had fans and media speculating about where he might end up. With a no-trade clause in his contract, he has the right to veto any deal. But Bryant reportedly has said he would accept a move to the Bulls, Knicks or Suns.

Could any of those three teams swing a deal?

Chicago would appear to have the best chance. The Bulls have some good young talent in Luol Deng, Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich and Tyrus Thomas -- as well as the No. 9 pick in the June 28 draft. But Chicago doesn't have a superstar to offer in return -- and the Hollywood market would seem to demand a marquee box-office draw.

New York has less to offer, with Stephon Marbury and a package of young players that would include Channing Frye as the main trade bait. It's hard to believe this would be enough. Marbury is a big name, but he's not exactly Jackson's kind of player and his contract ($40 million over next two seasons) would bring L.A. no flexibility.

Phoenix has the pieces to make a deal, but is probably least likely. The Suns reportedly are worried about the luxury tax, and might be willing to part with Amaré Stoudemire or Shawn Marion in a blockbuster for Bryant. But the Lakers would be loath to deal Bryant to any team in the West, let alone a division rival such as the Suns.

One of the reasons Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak took the Heat's best offer for Shaq three years ago -- as opposed to some other deals that were out there -- was because he didn't want to have him in the West.

Even Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said the Lakers would never trade Bryant to his team. "Are you kidding? That isn't going to happen, even if we offered them the Grand Canyon as part of the deal," D'Antoni told the East Valley (Mesa) Tribune. "If we had Kobe, would we trade him [within the Pacific Division] to the Lakers? No way."

One possible way to make a deal work for one of Bryant's favored clubs, however, would be via a three-team trade. The Pacers (Jermaine O'Neal), Timberwolves (Kevin Garnett), Grizzlies (Pau Gasol) and Celtics (Paul Pierce) have stars who might be available. The Lakers then could wind up with the big-name player they need, while the third team gets the young Bulls or Knicks.

Either way, it appears we have not heard the last of the Bryant trade rumors. The saga, in fact, could be just getting started.

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