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Kobe Bryant an unhappy Lakers camper after Lamar Odom trade

All-Star guard says of deal sending Lamar Odom to Dallas, 'I don't like it.' But he also says GM Mitch Kupchak has proved over the years that he can build a winner. Lakers say Odom demanded a trade.

December 11, 2011|By Mike Bresnahan
  • Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant takes questions during media day at the team's El Segundo training facility on Sunday.
Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant takes questions during media day at the… (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles…)

Tough weekend for the Lakers, who didn't get Chris Paul or Dwight Howard.

All they got was a headache.

Lamar Odom wasn't happy, so he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks for a 2012 first-round pick, which made Kobe Bryant very unhappy.

"I don't like it," Bryant said Sunday, the third day of training camp. "I've known Lamar for a long time, and for the team itself, he's meant a lot in terms of his versatility, his personality. He's a big presence for us in the locker room, just from a team chemistry standpoint. He's great at bringing guys together and things of that nature.

"I trust management knows what they're doing. I let them do their jobs, I never get in the way but it's tough. You're talking about sixth man of the year last year. He played lights out."

Bryant then mentioned General Manager Mitch Kupchak.

"Mitch has proven over the course of the years that he's been able to build great teams here," Bryant said. "We have to all trust that he's going to do that."

Bryant didn't like that Odom was sent to the Mavericks, who eliminated the Lakers last season with a sweep in the Western Conference semifinals.

"Especially to them," Bryant said. "We were supposed to come back and get them back, know what I mean?"

Bryant had one last salvo, which he said with a smile.

"I don't think Mark Cuban's protesting this trade," he said.

The Mavericks' owner questioned the three-team trade last week that would have sent New Orleans guard Chris Paul to the Lakers, who would have given up Odom and Pau Gasol. The NBA on Thursday blocked the deal, which also involved Houston.

After he was done with reporters, Bryant met with Kupchak for 15 minutes. He was irritated before he walked into Kupchak's office but seemed better when he left, according to a person familiar with the situation who was not authorized to speak publicly about it.

As the Lakers tried to pick up the pieces of another frantic day, they said Odom demanded to be traded Friday and had his agent follow up with the request Saturday. They also said his trade value wasn't as strong as they hoped.

Odom was irritated to have been involved in the Paul trade in the first place. He did not practice with the team the first two days of training camp, showing up only briefly each day.

"To me, I would think it's better to stay away," Odom told The Times in a phone interview Friday. "You know, the energy and all. I don't know how it's going to go right now. It's a little weird. . . . Right now, I'll be a fan of the game from a distance."

In addition to the draft pick, the Lakers received a traded-player exception worth Odom's salary this season, $8.9 million. Under terms of the exception, the Lakers can obtain a player from another team by trading only a draft pick if the player makes less than $9 million. Teams have exactly one year to use a traded-player exception.

The Lakers could try to package the traded-player exception to get a player better than Odom, but Bryant wasn't anticipating it.

"I'm not thinking that at all," he said.

The Lakers have had talks with Howard's agent about a trade with Orlando, but they haven't led to anything productive.

"There's nothing going on," said a person who was familiar with the Lakers' inner workings.

It didn't mean a blockbuster trade was impossible down the road, but many Lakers were dumbfounded by the Odom trade. He was a strong rebounder who could handle the ball and was a solid character guy in the locker room.

Bryant wasn't buying into speculation that Odom's off-the-court activities were distractions, including a burgeoning reality-TV career with wife Khloe Kardashian.

"I don't understand the criticism of [the] reality shows. I don't get it," Bryant said. "He had his best season last year. It clearly wasn't a distraction. . . . I don't get where that comes from."

Odom, 32, averaged 14.4 points and 8.7 rebounds last season. He won't wait long to see his old teammates. The Mavericks play the Lakers at Staples Center on Jan. 16.

Sunday was a strange day, period. It was the team's annual media day, when players make all sorts of prerecorded announcements for TV and radio stations to be used at a later date.

One player who wasn't traded spoke ironically into an ESPN camera: "Hi. I'm Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers, and I want to wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year."

Indeed, Gasol is still with the Lakers. His frontcourt mate can't say the same.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan

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