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As preseason nears, Kobe's intentions up in the air

Posted: Monday September 10, 2007 3:20PM; Updated: Monday September 10, 2007 3:45PM
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The Lakers haven't done much this offseason to improve their team around Kobe Bryant.
The Lakers haven't done much this offseason to improve their team around Kobe Bryant.
John W. McDonough/SI

NBA training camps open in less than a month, but there is still one burning question left in this offseason: What will Kobe do?

Bryant still has not yet backed off his trade demand from the Lakers. During the recent FIBA Americas tournament (in which the 29-year-old star looked as lean and mean as ever, by the way), he artfully dodged all queries on the subject. While most assume he will show up in Hawaii with his L.A. teammates next month, nobody seems to know for certain.

It's safe to say the Lakers' big offseason moves (signing Derek Fisher and bringing back Luke Walton and Chris Mihm) haven't radically altered Bryant's opinion on the state of the roster. Meanwhile, the Kevin Garnett deal probably only made him feel more frustrated.

There is still a chance general manager Mitch Kupchak could pull off a trade that satisfies Bryant. Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal, the player most often mentioned as a possible Lakers target, remains available. Could a deal for O'Neal, involving Lamar Odom and/or 19-year-old center Andrew Bynum, still happen? Don't rule it out. As much as the Lakers might want to keep Bynum, he's far from a sure thing. Kupchak has to do something to win now or he faces the prospect of a very disgruntled Bryant showing up at camp.

How's this for a trade proposal: Kobe and Jordan Farmar for Ben Gordon, Andres Nocioni, Joakim Noah and Chris Duhon? The Bulls would have a lineup of Kirk Hinrich, Kobe, Luol Deng, Tyrus Thomas and Ben Wallace. If Chicago could improve the bench a little, it would have a championship team in the next two years. The Lakers, meanwhile, would have an exciting young team that puts fans in the seats. They would have Javaris Crittenton or Duhon at the point, Gordon at the 2, Luke Walton or Nocioni at the 3, Lamar Odom and Noah at the 4 and Bynum at the 5.
--Matt Kingdon, San Luis Obispo, Calif.

Bryant has listed Chicago as one of the teams for which he would like to play, but I doubt it will happen. First, Nocioni just signed a new deal so he can't be traded until Dec. 15. Plus, his status as a base-year compensation player makes any such deal more difficult. But even if the Lakers were open to trading with Chicago, Bulls GM John Paxson just doesn't seem inclined to break up his core right now. Besides, the Lakers probably need a marquee player in the Hollywood market. I don't think they would trade Bryant without getting an established All-Star-type player in return.

Regarding your recent column on the Celtics' point-guard situation, Ray Allen played the position in Milwaukee for two years on a part-time basis. Tony Allen ran the point very well in Boston during a 25-game stretch two years ago. Tony Allen is 6-4 and Ray Allen is 6-6, with Tony being an excellent defender. Scoring off the bench will not be the problem for the Celtics this year, but getting a cancer like Troy Hudson would be. Are you Hudson's agent?
--Erwin Lehrer, Brockton, Mass.

Given that Hudson got a $37 million deal from the Timberwolves a few years ago, I wish I were his agent. Seriously, I wasn't arguing the Celtics should sign him. I only said Celtics boss Danny Ainge was taking a chance by not signing a veteran backup point to go with second-year player Rajon Rondo, and that Hudson was the most realistic option left on the free-agent market. But Ainge believes he doesn't need a traditional PG, and he might be correct. We'll find out soon enough -- though it really shouldn't be judged until the playoffs. That's when veteran point guards reveal their true value.

What do you think of the NBA's new replay rule? I think NBA games are already too long as it is, with all the timeouts in the fourth quarter. Won't this only lead to longer games?
--M. Moore, Naperville, Ill.

The NBA got this one right. The replay will only be used to review flagrant 2 fouls (the serious ones that result in immediate ejection) and after altercations. These occurrences are relatively rare. But when it does happen, now the refs at least will be able to make sure a transgressor deserves to be tossed.

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