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Thomas Welcomes Bryant's Interest

NBA FINALS: DETROIT 88, LAKERS 68

June 11, 2004|J.A. Adande

New York Knick President Isiah Thomas, reacting to Kobe Bryant's telling the New York Post "I'll be there" if Thomas invites him for a visit when the free-agency period begins in July: "Any time a player talks about your organization, that's great....

"New York is a special place. And it's a place that hasn't won in a long time. I know the challenge for me was to go to New York and try to unlock the safe and win the championship. If you can do it there, that's better than doing it anywhere."

Is Bryant great enough to do it anywhere, even on a team that's hampered by bad contracts and was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs?

"I think when you talk about players like he and [Michael] Jordan -- I think you have to eliminate Shaq [O'Neal], Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] and Wilt [Chamberlain] from the conversation because of their size and dominance -- but when you talk about perimeter people, I think when it's all said and done, if Kobe keeps going in the direction that it's going, you guys may be talking about him instead of Michael," Thomas said. "I haven't seen anyone as driven since Michael."

If Bryant wants to make as much money as possible and play for the Knicks, the Lakers would have to sign him and trade him for players whose combined salaries approximated Bryant's. If Bryant wants to play in New York at any price, he could sign for a midlevel exception, as Gary Payton did with the Lakers.

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