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Kobe Bryant remains unsure about franchise's direction

December 15, 2011 |  5:32 pm

Cast Kobe Bryant alongside every Laker fan who can't figure out the rationale behind the team trading Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks for a $8.9-million trade exception and first-round draft pick in 2012. They wonder whether the Lakers can secure the "big move" that Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak has said he wants. And they worry about what this means for the future.

"I'm not sure what the hell the direction is, to be honest with you," Bryant said.

Cast Bryant alongside every L.A. sports fan who feels the buzz surrounding the Clippers' acquisition of Chris Paul.

Those fans feel the Clippers are instant playoff contenders. They're salivating over watching Paul connect with Blake Griffin on alley-oop dunks. And even the ones who, gasp, consider the Clippers to now be the more exciting team.

"I agree. I definitely would watch them," Bryant said, and he's not being sarcastic. "Come on, man. Blake has, like, a 60-inch vertical. Chris is vastly entertaining. For sure, I'd definitely check them out. They're a team with a high motor, young, run up and down the floor, this that and the other."

Cast Bryant alongside all Lakers fans who, no matter how conflicted they feel about the team right now, confidently think they will end the season watching a championship parade down Figueroa Street. 

Missing parts and all, they remain confident with their belief that the Lakers have a more explosive Bryant, a more motivated Pau Gasol and a healthier Andrew Bynum. They at least appreciate the Lakers' trying to remain aggressive in trade negotiations, no matter how successful. And this being the purple and gold, high risks usually result in high reward.

"They tried to make moves, as you can see," Bryant said. "They tried to get Chris. And they're talking about trying to get Dwight [Howard]. They're trying to make moves. So I'll just stay out of their way and let them do it." 

For now. 

Bryant remained sarcastic, defiant and, yes, even humorous, after practice Thursday. He joked about the large media contingent showing up after a random practice and sneered when asked whether the Lakers-Clippers exhibition games next week have extra excitement with Paul in the mix. Bryant remained optimistic about the Lakers' title hopes, saying they need to embrace being a grind-it-out team and increase their roles to make up for Odom's absence. Bryant remained reluctant to put pressure on the front office, as he did four years ago when he demanded a trade. 

But Bryant surely remains at a crossroads, giving the Lakers front office the benefit of the doubt even if he has doubts himself about the future. 

"I don't know, dude," Bryant said. "I'm telling you, I don't know. ... I know [the starters] will win the scrimmage tomorrow. I know that. Other than that, I don't know."


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-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Kobe Bryant, left, waits with teammate Lamar Odom as referees review a play against the Clippers on Jan 16. Credit: Gus Ruelas / Associated Press