Jim Buss, the Los Angeles Lakers executive vice president of basketball operations, said Friday that star Kobe Bryant is not going anywhere.
Bryant, 35, is entering the final year of his contract and is set to make an NBA-high $30.5 million salary. He will be eligible for free agency next July 1.
Further complicating matters is that Bryant tore his left Achilles tendon in April and there is still no timetable on his return. The Lakers open the season Tuesday against the Los Angeles Clippers.
"I want to put an end to any speculation that we would allow Kobe to become a free agent," Buss told ESPNLosAngeles.com. "That's not going to happen. Kobe is a top priority for us. He's a Laker legend and always will be. I don't think we're done winning championships with him yet.
"(General manager) Mitch Kupchak and (Bryant's agent) Rob Pelinka have been talking, but with him being hurt, it has slowed the process some. I don't know when it'll get done, but I have faith in Rob and Mitch to work things out."
Bryant told ESPNLosAngeles.com in July that he wants to retire as a Laker.
"As a businessman, the goal is always to not take a pay cut," he said. "But ..."
The Orange County Register reported Thursday that Buss talked to Bryant and believed that the Lakers would allow him to become a free agent so the team could first spend on other free agents to upgrade their roster.
Steve Nash, Nick Young and Robert Sacre are the only Lakers under contract for next season.
"We've probably talked," Bryant told the Register. "But I'm putting off any thought of that."
Bryant said he is only focused on coming back from his injury.