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Bullish about Kobe?

Five reasons why Bryant-to-Chicago is a longshot

Posted: Wednesday June 20, 2007 3:39PM; Updated: Wednesday June 20, 2007 5:53PM
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Ah, those were the days: Kobe Bryant now wants another team to pick up the contract he signed with Mitch Kupchak and the Lakers in July 2004.
Ah, those were the days: Kobe Bryant now wants another team to pick up the contract he signed with Mitch Kupchak and the Lakers in July 2004.
AP
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Bulls fans are buzzing these days -- and, no, we're not talking about those rumors of a big Chris Duhon trade.

Nine years after Michael Jordan left the Bulls, Chicago fans are finally dreaming of a superstar who can at least claim to fill his Nikes.

Yes, Kobe Bryant is apparently demanding a trade (again). And he's put the Windy City on his short list of destinations.

For many Bulls fans, who have been waiting patiently since the breakup of the Jordan dynasty in 1998, it's almost too good to be true. They view their current club, which swept the defending champion Heat in the playoffs before being ousted in six games by the Pistons, as being in need of one more piece. Bryant, in their eyes, would give them the superstar they lack and a counterpoint to LeBron James for dominance in the East.

It all sounds well and good, but could it happen?

Let's just say the Windy City shouldn't start clearing space for a Kobe Bryant statue to go with the one of His Airness outside the United Center just yet. Here are five reasons why Bryant probably won't be joining the Bulls any day soon:

1. The Lakers might not trade him.

Lost in all the hoopla over Bryant's trade demands is that it is still far from certain that the Lakers would even agree to accommodate him. In fact, the team continues to insist that it has no intention of doing so. Lakers owner Jerry Buss and coach Phil Jackson both have said they expect Bryant to be back next year.

Whether they are just blowing smoke to maintain Bryant's trade value or whether they honestly believe it, the Lakers clearly have a say in the matter. Bryant can try to force their hand by threatening to opt out of his contract after the 2008-09 season, but that's still two years away. With all his endorsement deals and off-the-court revenue streams, he isn't going to sit out next season. In other words, L.A. has the leverage for now. It can afford to sit back and wait and see if Bryant cools off.

2. Hurray for Hollywood.

Even if L.A. decides to move its franchise player, there is no guarantee it would find a fit with the Bulls. While Chicago could put together an attractive package of young players involving perhaps Luol Deng, Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich, as well as the No. 9 pick in the draft, it can't offer anything in the way of a bona fide marquee star. The Lakers probably would need a big-name player in return for Bryant to satisfy their Hollywood fan base.

The Bulls also could have trouble getting the contracts needed to match up to 75 percent of Bryant's $20 million annual salary, as required by league rules. Deng ($3.3 million) and Gordon ($4.8) are still on their rookie contracts. Andres Nocioni is a free agent who is expected to command about $5 to $7 million per season. Hinrich is due to make $11 million next season, but as a base-year compensation player, he is difficult to deal. The Bulls could do a sign-and-trade with Nocioni or P.J. Brown, perhaps giving one or both a little more to make up some of the difference, but the Lakers would have to agree to the terms.

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