Lakers owners say they won't trade Kobe Bryant or tank
With the Lakers struggling during their first season under head coach Byron Scott, Bryant's future with the team has been questioned. The 36-year-old is second in the league in scoring at 25.5 points per game, but he is shooting a career-low 39.0 percent from the field. He is in the first season of a two-year, $48.5 million contract which includes a full no-trade clause.
Jim Buss said he doesn't see Bryant leaving the franchise, and Jeanie Buss agreed, but appeared to leave the door open at the same time.
"No. I love Kobe Bryant. I think L.A. loves Kobe Bryant and he deserves to play here. He loves it. I don't envision him going anywhere else," Jim Buss said. "I don't see it."
Said Jeanie Buss: "I don't want to see Kobe Bryant ever leave. If he was 100 years old and still playing, I'd be happy. But we have survived many changes including retirements and trades. We understand the realities of the sports world.
"Take Shaq for example, he was traded from here and went on to several other teams after that. But once he was retired, he asked us to retire his jersey. He wanted to be remembered as a Laker. So while I get attached, I know what the realities are in this business, I still have to remind myself that Kevin Garnett is in Brooklyn and not in Boston.
"It's never going to change what we've accomplished together. But I don't look forward to the day that Kobe Bryant's not in purple and gold."
During practice on Thursday in front of the media, Bryant called the team "soft" and called out general manager Mitch Kupchak for the lack of competition in practice.
The Lakers' rough start to the season could lead to a high draft pick to help Bryant next season, but the team will send the pick to the Phoenix Suns if it is outside of the top-five. Magic Johnson said he hopes the team loses every game to get a better draft pick. Jim Buss said the team will not tank to try to keep the pick.
"It will never happen here, period," Jim Buss said. "The question is insulting. Our fans understand there's a process. They believe in the process -- the coach, Kobe, the draft pick [Julius Randle] and the flexibility we have going forward."
Randle, the No. 7 pick in the 2014 draft, broke his right leg during the season opener and will miss the rest of the season.
The Lakers have the second-worst record in the Western Conference at 6-16 and are 5.5 games behind the Phoenix Suns for the final playoff spot.
- Paul Palladino