As many have probably already heard from breathless media reports, there was a rumor this afternoon that Kobe Bryant had cleaned out his locker and told the Lakers that he had played his final game for them.
The report had Kobe and his agent meeting with Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak (or maybe it was the president of Iran and a few Martians. That will be tomorrow’s talk, probably). Additional rumors had Kobe on his way to Dallas or Chicago (or, one of the options he presented this summer, Pluto).
According to Kobe, none of it is true. Draw your own conclusions based on what we know for certain…
– Kobe didn’t practice again today, and apparently it was because of a “mutual decision” with Phil Jackson and not because of injury concerns.
– Kobe didn’t emerge from the training facility until 2:40 p.m. — ostensibly after treatment on his knee — at which point he told reporters the following…
Q: We’ve heard reports that you’ve cleaned out your locker. What’s going on?
KOBE: I didn’t clean out my locker.
Q: Did you guys have meetings at all today, with Jim Buss and Rob, your agent?
Q: The fans are wondering, what’s your status with the Lakers? Have you played your final game as a Laker? Will you be a Laker when the season starts?
KOBE: I don’t… I don’t know. You need to, you know, talk to Mitch and Mr. Buss about that. I don’t know. I’m just getting ready.
Q: Would you still like to be a Laker?
KOBE: Yeah, if I’m here I’m ready to strap it up.
Q: So the ball is in the front office’s court?
KOBE: Yeah, it’s not… My job is to play the game and get ready to play the game. That’s what I’m doing.
Q: Once again, there’s all the mystery and all the rumors surrounding your situation…
KOBE: Yeah well, you know, I guess people are just intrigued by what’s going on around here. I understand, but I’ve just got a job to do.
Q: How unsettling is it to you?
KOBE: Um, you know, it’s crazy to deal with this. The one thing that I said in training camp is that I didn’t want this to be a distraction. That’s why, you know, it was all our understanding to kind of not bring up the situation and not talk about it. To kind of have this go on now, it’s a bit of a distraction.
Q: Does it seem like what Dr. Buss said kind of fanned the flames again?
KOBE: Well no, I mean, like I said, we just wanted to keep things quiet. You know what I mean? We just wanted to go about our business, so it kind of caught me off guard a little bit but I’ve just got to get back to basics and just get ready and go from there.
Q: After what he did say, would you like something to happen, one way or the other, soon?
KOBE: I just… Like I said, it’s my job to play basketball. It’s not my job to, you know, worry about what management is doing and this, that and the other. Like I said, I’m just going to get ready and let them do their job.
At this point, after one minute and 45 seconds, two members of Kobe’s Hired Help — neither of whom are employed by the Lakers or the NBA, yet still manage to gain access to the training facility and manage his media availability — pulled him away from the stressful task of answering questions.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s drama…