OAKLAND, Calif. – With the Los Angeles Lakers still searching for their first victory of the season, Kobe Bryant's quest for a sixth NBA championship has never appeared more difficult. Bryant, however, isn't ready to start issuing trade demands.
"I hear the chatter of Kobe should ask out and he should go and play for a contender in this latter stage of his career," Bryant told Yahoo Sports. "But that's not what I do. I'm extremely loyal to the Lakers.
"I believe in fighting through the tough times as well as enjoying the good times. It's my responsibility to get us to be the best that we can be. It's important that we approach that on a day-to-day basis."
The Lakers' 0-4 start is their worst since they also went 0-4 to begin the 1957-58 season, back when the franchise was in Minneapolis. Their upcoming schedule also won't afford them any easy opportunities with games against the Phoenix Suns, Charlotte Hornets and Memphis Grizzlies.
Lakers guard Steve Nash is ruled out for the season because of a nagging back injury. First-round pick Julius Randle broke his right leg in the opener and is out for the season. The Lakers are also playing without Nick Young and Ryan Kelly, who have injuries.
"We can't get discouraged by it," Bryant said. "It's a very long season. You just have to stay the course. Keep on looking to improve, keep on looking to get better and things will eventually break.
"I've enjoyed a great amount of success here. You can't just enjoy the successful times and then run away from the bad ones. No, I don't even think about [departing]. I'm a Laker."
Bryant's contract (he makes $23.5 million this season and $25 million next season) and age (36) would likely limit the Lakers' trade opportunities. In 2007, Bryant asked for a trade after the Lakers' front office failed to make any strong moves to improve the franchise. He dropped his trade request after the Lakers acquired Pau Gasol in a trade and they followed by advancing to the 2008 NBA Finals. This time, Bryant wasn't upset with the fruitless free agency for the Lakers this past offseason.
Carmelo Anthony appeared to be the biggest potential free-agent acquisition, but he opted to return to the New York Knicks. LeBron James left the Miami Heat to return home to the Cleveland Cavaliers and didn't take the Lakers seriously. The Lakers also lost Gasol to the Chicago Bulls.
"It was really tough to land those free agents just because of the opportunities that they had," Bryant said. "You got 'Melo going back to New York, LeBron going back home to Cleveland. The odds just weren't in our favor. But I took comfort in the fact that the Lakers did absolutely everything possible to make it happen. Absolutely everything possible.
"We offered Pau an incredible deal. I saw them put the work in. It's much different than in 2007 when I felt like they were just sitting on their hands. This is not that case. They were going after it and being aggressive. I will fight for that till the end. They tried, tried and tried and it didn't work out. I stand behind them 110 percent. I bleed purple and gold."
One silver lining for the Lakers has been Bryant's strong play so far after he appeared in just six games last season because of injuries. He is averaging 24.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists in four games this season. He scored a season-high 31 points against the Phoenix Suns last Wednesday and threw down an acrobatic vintage dunk against the Los Angeles Clippers last Friday that even surprised him.
"I knew I was ready, I was healthy and my skill was there," Bryant said. "I did everything possible and that's the important thing. Everything I could control, diet, training, stretching, therapy. …I did everything physically possible.
"I do have a lot of comfort in the fact that I didn't try to take a lot of shortcuts and because of that my body feels great."
Lakers fans have enjoyed 16 titles and aren't accustomed to losing. Bryant offered a message to the frustrated fans.
"You have to understand there is nothing you can do with what's transpired," Bryant said. "You have to move on to tomorrow. Right? You have to. Kicking and screaming is not going to do anything.
"Lakers fans know it's a process. Things can turn pretty quickly. We've seen it there before. If there is anything we're relying on, we're relying on our history, what we've been able to accomplish and how quickly we are able to turn things around."
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