It’s impossible to represent, in a newspaper story, exactly what Kobe Bryant did today. He basically took a blowtorch to the organization, and things will never be the same. Kobe and the Lakers might continue to coexist, but the relationship has changed forever. I did my best to sum up the day in tomorrow’s paper, but I thought you might be interested in reading all of what Kobe had to say on his two radio interviews today. If you have the time, I urge you to listen to the 570-AM interview, because the passion and anger in Kobe’s voice is amazing. But for those who have the time and energy, here’s most of what Kobe had to say in two interviews.
570-AM, with Petros Papadakis and Matt “Money” Smith
[on the potential for a trade]
If we’re not making any strides here to improve this team right now, to be aggressive and things of that nature, then what’s the point of having me here?
[on the phone call he got from Jerry Buss before he signed with the Lakers]
That’s the call that really swayed me. If you look at all the teams that have been quote-unquote dynasties, it normally takes about nine or 10 years to rebuild. That was my concern when I spoke with Dr. Buss. I said, `Are you guys on a nine- or 10-year plan? Are you on a long-term plan?’ Or do you want to try to rebuild this team right away and be aggressive. … That was my No. 1 concern, and he promised me that they would do whatever they can to go out and get players. They were going to be extremely aggressive. They are going to rebuild right now. This is not something where they wanted to wait. They wanted to get back to a championship level right now. That swayed my decision. I was leaning toward going to Chicago, and the Clippers as well, just for the fact that it was a new challenge and they have players that I’ve known for a while. … I wanted to play for the Lakers, and Jerry Buss called me from his vacation in Italy and promised that they wanted to rebuild right now. I trusted that promise and went with them.
[on the rebuilding process]
I don’t want to make it seem like I’m bashing anybody, but at the same time, we have to right the ship. I look at what Kevin Garnett is going through in Minnesota and I don’t want us to go through that, by any means. For the past few years, I’ve been meeting with Mitch and Dr. Buss in the offseason, talking to them about players. Most of the players call me, because I know most of them. Baron Davis called me and indicated he wanted to come out here and hoop with us. Same thing with Carlos Boozer. Same thing with Ron Artest. My response to them has been, `You know what? I love it. Let me call you back. I’m going to call Mitch and see what I can do. Let me (call) you back.’ Every time I had to call back and say they didn’t want to do it because of this or that. In Baron’s case it was because he was injury prone. In Carlos Boozer’s case it was because he can’t guard forwards. It was always something. Then they traded my man, Caron Butler, which made me feel terrible because he and I had been working out that whole summer. … Then I get a call, telling me that he’s been traded. They were asking me about my thoughts on that, and I said, `Why are you asking me my thoughts now? You already did the trade?’ Through all of these three years, and the time it’s taking to rebuild, enough is enough. That’s why I’ve been very vocal.
[on being blamed for the Shaquille O’Neal trade]
I’ve had many media people come up to me and say, `You know the Lakers are having you take the bullet for this one, right?’ I just shrugged it off, because it was about moving forward. Now when I see that a `Laker inside’ says I ran Shaq off, OK, now I’ve got a serious issue with that. I took it in stride the first time, because I assumed it was just talk. Now I find out that it’s coming from Laker insiders. Now I’ve got serious issues. I’m speaking my mind, because I’m not taking the bullet for something I did not say or did not do.
He told me he wanted to trade Shaquille. He didn’t want to pay the $30 million or whatever it was. He felt he was getting older and it was time to trade him. He said, `I don’t care what you decide to do. I’m letting you know that I’ve decided to let (O’Neal) go. Now I hear that a Laker insider is saying this. Now I’ve got serious trust issues. They know I had nothing to do with that. Jerry Buss knows it. He called me on the eve of me making my decision, from his vacation in Italy.
[on repairing his relationship with the front office]
That place is a mess. I’m talking about one thing and one thing only. I’m not dissing Jim Buss. I’m not dissing Mitch Kupchak. I’m not dissing anybody. I want us, us, to get to the point where we’re contending for titles. It’s not about, this guy has control or that guy has control. Scrap that. What are we going to do to get a championship team in here? That’s the No. 1 goal. That’s the most important thing. Now they want to use me as a scapegoat with this Laker insider thing and it’s ridiculous. If you’re going to make decisions, stand up and stand in front of your decision. Don’t throw me under the bus for something I didn’t say or do. I’m not going for that. … I haven’t heard from anybody over there since the exit interview. I get up at 4:30 (a.m.) and I get on the court and work on nothing but defense. My focus has been all about getting this team to the next level. Now, the tone has switched now. The tone has switched. Because now I’ve got serious trust issues.
[on his conversation today with Phil Jackson]
Since he came back, we never talked about the book and we never talked about the end of the ’04 season. But I was so frustrated that I sent him a text message. I said, `Phil, please call me, ASAP. It’s extremely important.’ And he called me right back. What he told me, which was a big eye opener for me, was that they told him they didn’t want to bring him back because they wanted to scale back. They wanted to try to get under the cap, they had a long-term plan and he wouldn’t be a part of it because he commands too much in salary and they’re trying to cut back. … I said, `Phil, that’s drastically different than what they told me.’ When Dr. Buss called me on the eve of me making my decision, and when Mitch called me when I was a free agent, he told me they would do everything they can to get back to an elite level. They said nothing, nothing, to me about a long-term plan. Absolutely nothing. So now, here I am sitting here for the last three years, and I’ve got Baron and Carlos calling me and I’m excited to get things done, and I had no idea that there was some long-term plan in place that I have no idea about. They told Phil one thing and they told me another. Actions speak louder than words.
[can things be improved?]
I don’t know. I have a headache. This has been the worst day. I want to be a Laker forever. I love this team and I love this city. My wife is from out here and my kids love it here. I’ve been up, working out for USA Basketball and getting ready for next season, despite all this. I’ve been getting up at 4:30, just getting ready. … Then I read this in the paper about a Laker insider, and that just took it to another level.
[on his frustration with the lack of improvement the Lakers have showed]
Now I realize that it’s not so much them not being able to do anything. It’s them not wanting to do anything. It gets back to the trust thing. They’re in a long-term plan that I had no idea about. I’m bringing them players and I’m looking like a fool. Baron Davis wanted to play here for less money, but it’s one excuse after the other because they’re on some long-term plan that I have no idea about.
710-AM, with John Ireland and Steve Mason
[on the potential of a trade]
I would hate to think that I would have to go someplace else to play, because I’ve been a Laker fan my whole life, like a diehard Laker fan. … I don’t want to go no place else. It’s just something that would have to cross my mind if we don’t make any strides or any type of improvements. That’s something that I have to think about.
[on being blamed for the Shaquille O’Neal trade]
I’m beyond furious. To say I’m beyond furious is an understatement, because they know what happened. They know how it went down. They know I had nothing to do with it. Jerry Buss came to me during the season and talked about the direction he wanted to take this organization. I know that. He called me the evening before I made my decision to stay with the Lakers. He knows that. For somebody on the inside to say that, I don’t know who to trust.
[on his conversation with Phil Jackson]
PJ said, `They told me they want to take the team in another direction, they want to scale back and try to get under the (salary) cap and they’ve got this plan, somewhat of a long-term plan.’ I said, `PJ, right before I resigned, they promised me they were going to do everything they can to win right now.’ I didn’t know anything about some five-year plan. Everything I heard was about winning right now and being aggressive and building this team up now. That was the reason why I resigned. I’m a diehard Laker fan, but I was ready to go to the Clippers, who had good young talent and players I’ve known for a while. Chicago was another good team, but I wanted to remain a Laker, and hearing that promise made to me was something that swayed me. I wanted to stay here, and if they were going to be aggressive and get us back to that level, that’s something I wanted to be a part of.
[on his frustration with the Lakers not adding big-time players]
Those players called me. They said, `Kobe, is there any chance I can get out there?’ I said, `You know what? Let me make the call and see what’s going on. I’ll hit you back.’ That’s been the case with all the guys, with Baron, Boozer and Artest. Every time, I’ve had to call them back. In Baron’s case, it was that he was too injury prone. In Carlos’ case, he can’t guard forwards. Every time, it was something. It was very frustrating, but it’s not my place to vent. At the time, I just wanted to continue to play, but now it’s been three years and it’s time to get aggressive. This is a plan that I just now discovered. I didn’t know we were on a five- or six-year plan. I had no idea about that.
[on his relationship with Jim Buss]
Every time I talk to Jim, he’s always very positive. He has a lot of energy and he’s always talking about doing research about getting players and stuff like that. I have no problems whatsoever with Jim.
It’s always about trust. At least for me it is. Right before I signed I was promised that we would rebuild right now, and now I find out that there was a different plan. We all know Jerry, and we know he’s not going to settle for that. He wants to win right now.
[on how the Lakers can realistically improve]
I don’t know. I try to stay in my lane. I’m not a GM and I don’t know one thing about being a general manager. I don’t try to play general manager. I just look at body of work, and Jerry West’s body of work is undeniable.
[on his timetable for the Lakers’ improvement]
I want to know that there’s commitment there to win now. The trust, for me, has been damaged, because there’s a different plan than I was told.
[on the idea that he wants to be traded]
If I want a trade, I’ll ask for a trade. I’ll be upfront about it. I’m not going to beat around the bush, (but) I want to work this stuff out.
[on his communication with the Lakers since last week]
Nobody has called me. It’s been radio silence.