Lakers' Jackson calls into doubt Bryant's commitment on court

SPORTS DIGEST

October 29, 2007|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

LOS ANGELES -- Just before the start of a season prefaced by a summer of discontent, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is still not fully committed to the team, coach Phil Jackson said.

"Obviously, he hasn't thrown his heart and soul into performing on the floor," Jackson said after practice Saturday. "That hurts me a little bit. ... He was going to work at this thing and [would] put his full being into this. Right now, he's having a hard time doing that."

Asked specifically what Bryant is struggling with, Jackson replied: "Mentally getting himself here and playing hard. ... Is that a surprise to you guys? I mean I'm not breaking new news."

It came as news to Bryant, who denied any lack of commitment.

"That [should be] the least of his concerns or anybody's concerns," Bryant said. "You don't have to worry about that. ... I'm ready to play. Period. You don't have to worry about me."

Bryant, who didn't practice because of a wrist injury, is expected to play in tomorrow night's season opener against the Houston Rockets.

Bryant has sent tremors of concern through the organization since the end of last season. His frustration over a quick first-round exit from the postseason by the Lakers caused Bryant to criticize the front office, demand a trade, back off from that demand, then criticize a decision not to trade center Andrew Bynum.

Peace, tentative as it was, seemed to have settled on the Lakers as they headed to Hawaii for the start of training camp. But when owner Jerry Buss told reporters he has explored the feasibility of satisfying Bryant's trade wish and will continue to do so, Bryant's acceptance of a future with the team was again called into question.

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