UPDATE: ESPN's Greg Anthony says on Outside the Lines that he has talked to Kobe Bryant. Anthony reports that Bryant tells him he will rescind his trade demand if the Lakers terminate whoever was responsible for the leaked rumor that Bryant was responsible O'Neal's departure.
From ESPN News Services:
The story lines that have engulfed the Los Angeles Lakers in the last week hit a crescendo Wednesday when Kobe Bryant said he would welcome a trade.
"I would like to be traded, yeah," Bryant said on 1050 ESPN Radio in New York. "Tough as it is to come to that conclusion there's no other alternative, you know?"
Bryant, interviewed by Stephen A. Smith, was asked if there was anything the Lakers could do to change his mind?
"No," Bryant said. "I just want them to do the right thing."
(You can listen to the whole thing. He leaves little doubt. He says he wants to be traded both because he has been lied to and because he isn't confident in their ability to surround him with appropriate talent.)
At the end of the show, Stephen A. Smith asks: "Is there ANYTHING the Los Angeles Lakers can do to get you to remain with the organization?"
And Bryant responds: "No, bro."
Wow, OK. Is this really going to happen?
Would the Lakers really agree to trade him? Could they possibly get back equivalent value (especially as he has a no-trade clause and can veto a move to a weak team)?
Who might you offer for Kobe Bryant? Forget your traditional "never trade with a rival" rule for a moment, and let's just brainstorm (I have not worked all these out on the trade machine yet):
Chicago will be there with a package that stars Luol Deng and several other bits and pieces (like Tyrus Thomas and Ben Wallace perhaps?).
Isiah Thomas is, I'd imagine, on the phone with James Dolan right now saying please, please, please, pretty please daddy can you buy this for me? What could they offer? How about ALL OF THE KNICKS. Probably not enough, but maybe.
Here's a crazy idea that would never happen: what about Tracy McGrady? The Lakers get to keep selling tickets and get a player coming into his prime, the Rockets get to re-shuffle and see if the Yao formula works better with a different wingman.
The Lakers could take their pick of the Boston roster, I'd imagine, although getting Bryant to join a decimated version of the worst team in the league could be tough. (UPDATE: Here's a "for instance" version. The teams might also swap first round picks. The problem here, I'm guessing, is the Bryant might not like it.)
Portland could offer Brandon Roy and Zach Randolph. Not that they should, or would (it monkeys with the schedule ... when does a Bryant/Oden team peak?), but it would have to be taken seriously.
Many in Dallas have already written they'd dangle Dirk Nowitzki.
Kobe Bryant might not mind being traded to the Clippers, who have some nice pieces. But would he like to play for a version of the Clippers that lacked Elton Brand, which is probably what it would take to get him?
Phoenix is coached by Kobe Bryant's boyhood idol, and I have to believe he'd love to be paired with a great point guard. The Lakers might go for Amare Stoudemire, but it says here that he's a base-year compensation player which makes that tough, so L.A. would have to fall in love with a Shawn Marion (and, perhaps, Boris Diaw and picks?) package. If I were Mitch Kupchak calling, I'd ask for Steve Nash and change. (Phoenix fans trying to figure out some way to get this done.)
Ideas from the comments include a Gilbert Arenas package from Washington. I think there's a decent chance the Lakers and Kobe Bryant balk at this, as neither, in my estimation, would end up winners.
To Minnesota for Kevin Garnett? (I wish Bryant and Garnett could somehow play together, but I don't see how it could happen. The irony would be that if Garnett is a Laker, where would Bryant rather play? Yet another example why, if you want to win titles, you are better off not having a max contract. Too hard to end up alongside other stars.)
Denver has those two big stars, but what does that add up to? How do you configure something that the Lakers want? It would have to be Carmelo Anthony-based I would think, but then you're asking Bryant to co-star with Allen Iverson? That's the craziest thing anyone has ever imagined. And hasn't Colorado had enough of Kobe Bryant?
Hey lookie here, betting odds on which team he might go to. Chicago is the favorite, then Phoenix, then Dallas.
An idea from TrueHoop reader Scott to make Bryant a Hawk: "Atlanta could trade Joe Johnson, Tyronn Lue, Childress, and the #3 and #11 picks to L.A for Kobe and the #19. Then Kobe would still have a core around him with Marvin Williams, Shelden Williams, Josh Smith, Salim Stoudamire and they could pick a PG at #19."
Here's a four-way trade that sends Bryant to Philadelphia, Andre Iguodala and Steven Hunter to Phoenix, Shawn Marion to Portland, and Andre Miller, Jarrett Jack, and Zach Randolph to the Lakers. Crazy, but less crazy than many.
More thoughts to come.
UPDATE: From ESPN's NBA Research and Information Specialist Peter D. Newmann:
When Bryant signed his free-agent contract on July 15, 2004, a seven-year deal worth $136.4 million, a no-trade clause was built into his contract. He is the only player in the NBA that has a no-trade clause in his contract. He has a no-trade clause for at least two more seasons, at which time he can opt out of his current contract (after the 2008-09 season). If he exercises his option to become a free agent, he would walk away from a combined $47.8 million for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons. The only way the Lakers could trade Bryant is if he waived his no-trade clause, which means the team would need Bryant's approval to trade him.
And more from Mike Bresnahan in the L.A. Times:
Bryant will obviously waive his no-trade clause, but he has a trade kicker in his contract that is believed to add about $13 million to his total contract value, a cost to be absorbed by any team that acquires him. The money would be paid like a signing bonus and would not count toward the salary cap. The Lakers had to pay a similar fee to Lamar Odom when they acquired him from Miami three years ago, paying him about $8 million.
It's going to be very tough to accomodate Bryant's trade request. My bet is that only a very small number of teams have anything even close to the talent, salaries, and cash to make a real offer.
UPDATE: The more I think about it, the more I am convinced the Lakers will only agree to
a deal that gets them a young star.
UPDATE: And as I think about it even more, could any trade end with Bryant on a much better team than he's on now? My fantasy of trading him to Houston, I guess. Or maybe if Dallas, Phoenix, or Chicago works it out somehow. But any of those teams would be giving up a big chunk of what made them good. And they won't have Phil Jackson. Imagine if Kobe ends up in Minnesota for Garnett, or Boston for Pierce. He'll be feeling pretty stupid. I bet this goes down in history as Kobe Bryant making really clear he wants the front office straightened out, and the roster revamped to win now. Because I'm not sure a clearly better offer will emerge for the parties involved.
UPDATE: Dr. Buss says Bryant has not talked to the Lakers directly about his trade demand, and that they have long told Bryant they'd like him to spend his entire career in one place.