Lakers' trade for Bryant has been misconstrued ('96 draft)

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 7 years ago '06        #1
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Vdot88 4 heat pts
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Lakers' trade for Bryant has been misconstrued ('96 draft)
 

 
If you haters are gonna bash this dude, at least get ya facts right image


CHARLOTTE --
Revisionist history is always fascinating.

It's not always accurate, but it's fascinating.

The Charlotte Hornets drafted Kobe Bryant with the 13th pick in the 1996 NBA Draft and promptly traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers for Vlade Divac.

Over the years, that story has been told, retold and embellished so much that the reality of that trade and the current perception are farther apart than, oh, Charlotte and Los Angeles. It's a timely topic because throughout this year's NBA Finals between the Lakers and Boston Celtics, we've heard all the revisionist history again. We've heard how Kobe and his agent shunned the Hornets, threatened that Kobe wouldn't play for the Hornets, and therefore orchestrated the trade to the Lakers. There has been more talk in Charlotte about Kobe and the Hornets the past two weeks than there has been about anything concerning the Bobcats.

A look back into the archives shows that the notion that Kobe orchestrated the trade is bogus. Kobe, in an interview during the 2000 Finals when the Lakers beat Indiana for the NBA title, said emphatically that he would have gladly played in Charlotte. Sure, he wanted to play for the Lakers, but who wouldn't? He also said that had he gone to college, he would have signed with Duke, so he liked the area.

And those who were involved in the wheeling and dealing at the time of the trade shoot down all the legends that have developed over the years.

"The deal was actually done a day ahead of time, and it was Vlade for a player to be named," said Bill Branch, the Hornets' head scout at the time who still operates out of Charlotte as a scout for the Seattle-now-Oklahoma City Sonics. "If I remember right, they didn't even tell us who they wanted us to pick until about five minutes before the pick was made. So it was never a matter of us actually drafting Kobe."

The trade was more about the Lakers' pursuit of Shaquille O'Neal in free agency and the Hornets' need to acquire a center than it was about Bryant.

In order to get far enough under the salary cap to make a valid pitch to O'Neal, the Lakers needed to unload Divac's contract, preferably to a team under the salary cap and preferably for a draft pick. The Hornets had traded Alonzo Mourning the previous year, were without a bona fide center, and were well under the cap after renouncing the rights to free agent Kenny Anderson. They would trade Larry Johnson to New York for Anthony Mason later that summer.

The Hornets reasoned that they could come out of the draft with no better than Vitaly Potapenko or Todd Fuller if they drafted a center, and jumped at the chance to trade the 13th pick for Divac.

"When you look back at it, when we made that trade, here was a 17-year-old kid who had played in high school," said Bob Bass, the Hornets' executive vice president of basketball operations at the time. "Twelve other teams passed on him. We made a decision to win now and not later. We had Dave Cowens as our first-year coach, and I wanted to give him a chance to win. I knew if we got Divac in here, we'd win. I didn't feel the same about Bryant. Without Divac, I thought we might have won 25 games."

The Hornets won 54 games, then a franchise record, the next season with Divac.

The Lakers might have been high on Bryant, but this was more about clearing up the cap room to make a run at O'Neal, whose contract was up in Orlando. Marc Fleisher, Divac's agent, remembers that the Lakers had a trade worked out to send Divac to Atlanta for the 25th pick if anything fell through with the Hornets. Had that scenario played out, there's little or no way that Bryant would have fallen all the way to the 25th pick, so Bryant and the Lakers couldn't have orchestrated anything.


"There were three teams involved at first -- Charlotte, Atlanta and Sacramento," Fleisher said. "Sacramento didn't work out for whatever reason, and then it was basically Charlotte or Atlanta. They asked us where Vlade would rather go, and he said Charlotte."

Divac later threatened to retire shortly after the deal was announced, and that would have nixed the trade. But Cowens talked him out of that threat, and the trade became official. After a few more minor deals and cap moves, the Lakers had enough cap room to sign O'Neal -- with Bryant, 17, as icing on the summer-acquisition cake.

Branch scouted Bryant twice for the Hornets while Bryant was at Lower Merion H.S., but he said that the Hornets "never even considered him" as a player they would draft and keep. Bass was an old-school GM who liked to deal but didn't usually gamble on young players.

Branch recalls how difficult it was to gauge Bryant's talents against inferior high-school competition. This was an era before it became fashionable to draft high-school players, before Kwame Brown, Dwight Howard and LeBron James were No. 1 picks straight out of high school.

Branch believes that the Lakers' Jerry West was probably gambling on Bryant to a degree, because that was West's style. And if Bryant didn't pan out, the Lakers would still get O'Neal in the process.

"Jerry West might be the only person who can really answer that, but I just think it (Bryant's stardom) would be very hard to predict, because you've got stories of guys who turned out good and stories of guys who turned out bad," Branch said. "The year before, L.A. wasn't even in the draft and they made a move to get into the second round at the last second, and they picked Frankie King out of Western Carolina. They specifically made a move to get one kid. So when you see moves like that and then they go for Kobe, you've got to think they're taking stabs.

"And I don't mean that negatively. I just mean for someone to say now that they knew Michael Jordan was going to be what he was, they're kidding themselves. We all thought Kobe was going to be good. But how do you really know?"

You don't. And that's why the Hornets were never anything but facilitators for the Lakers.

Twelve years later, obviously, it has worked out well for the Lakers. But the Hornets didn't get coerced into anything.

■ John Delong can be reached at jdelong@wsjournal.com.

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Last edited by Vdot88; 12-26-2010 at 04:58 PM..

14 comments for "Lakers' trade for Bryant has been misconstrued ('96 draft)"

 7 years ago '05        #2
Dun Language 3971 heat pts3971
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 7 years ago '08        #3
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 CashNy said:
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 12-26-2010, 04:58 PM         #4
Youngin19 
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For 13 days in the summer of 1996, Kobe Bryant's professional basketball future belonged to Charlotte.

At the time, Bryant was a 17-year-old prodigy, having decided to jump to the NBA after graduating from Lower Merion High near Philadelphia.

When the Charlotte Hornets made Bryant the 13th pick in the 1996 draft, a buzz rippled through the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J., where the event was held. It was an unexpected choice by a team that desperately needed a big man.

But Bryant was never going to be a Charlotte Hornet. The Hornets wanted Los Angeles Lakers center Vlade Divac, and to get him they agreed to draft Bryant and trade him for Divac.

Bryant was drafted on June 26 and, after nearly two weeks of threats and negotiations, Divac agreed to be traded to Charlotte on July 8.

With four NBA championships, one MVP award, one Finals MVP and a place among the NBA's all-time greats, Bryant returns to Charlotte tonight to face the Bobcats in what might have been his basketball home.

"It looks like hell now, but you know how that is," says Bob Bass, who made the deal with the Lakers when he was the Hornets' vice president.

From preps to pros

In 1996, NBA teams weren't in the habit of drafting players straight out of high school. One year earlier, Mauldin, S.C., native Kevin Garnett had become the exception, going straight from Farragut Academy High (Ill.) to the NBA.

Bryant would be next. The son of former NBA player Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, Kobe was different from his peers. Fluent in Italian from having spent part of his childhood in Italy where his father played professionally, and with a skill set that reminded some of a young Michael Jordan, Bryant had already been signed by the star-making William Morris Agency before the draft.

When Bryant mentioned he didn't have a date for his high school prom, pop star Brandy volunteered to go with him and did. Had he gone to college, Bryant later said he would have played at Duke for coach Mike Krzyzewski. Instead, he decided to enter the NBA draft.

By 1996, the Hornets were in a state of transition. Center Alonzo Mourning had been traded to Miami for Glen Rice and Matt Geiger. Larry Johnson was on the verge of being traded to the New York Knicks for Anthony Mason.

The team was still selling out every home game – the streak would eventually reach 364 games before ending in November 1997 – but the business of professional basketball had changed the dynamic.

Allan Bristow had resigned as coach after the team went 41-41 and missed the NBA playoffs in the 1995-96 season. Former Boston Celtics great Dave Cowens was hired.

The Hornets had one of the shortest rosters in the NBA after Mourning left, making it imperative they find a big man. With the 13th and 16th picks in the first round, the plan was to find a big man, then draft another guard.

"To think we were taking Kobe …" Bass says. "We had a small team and we were looking for size."

Among the big men the Hornets considered were Wright State's Vitaly Potapenko, Louisville's Samaki Walker and Memphis' Lorenzen Wright. Charlotte native Todd Fuller, a center at N.C. State, figured to be gone before the Hornets would draft.

With the 16th pick, the Hornets already had their eye on a guard – Santa Clara's Steve Nash, who had worked out with the team shortly before the draft. The Hornets had invited Bryant for a workout, but he cancelled the visit. The team had scouted Bryant twice but wanted a private workout to get a better feel for his potential.

"He wouldn't work out with us and that bothered us," Bass said. "We couldn't meet him. His agent was trying to aim him to the Lakers and they threatened us."

The Hornets got the message that if they drafted Bryant, he wouldn't play in Charlotte.

They weren't the only team to be warned off taking Bryant for their own.

The New Jersey Nets, coached by John Calipari, considered Bryant with the eighth pick but chose Villanova's Kerry Kittles after hearing a similar message.

The Philadelphia 76ers had seen Bryant play regularly but instead used the No. 1 pick to draft point guard Allen Iverson from Georgetown. Twelve teams passed on Bryant before the Hornets took him.

West was strategizing

In Los Angeles, general manager Jerry West had a grand plan for the Lakers.

He wanted Orlando center Shaquille O'Neal and planned to pursue him in free agency. O'Neal could be the player around which the Lakers would rebuild their championship legacy.

West knew no NBA team had drafted a backcourt player straight out of high school when he went to see Bryant work out at a YMCA in Los Angeles. Bryant was also scheduled to shoot a TV commercial for his new brand of adidas sneakers while in Los Angeles.

Bryant so impressed West that when he left, the former Lakers great decided he wanted to work out the teenager again.

West called former Laker Michael Cooper, who had recently retired, and asked him to work out with Bryant. Cooper had been an exceptional defensive player – former Boston Celtics star Larry Bird called him the best he ever faced – and had stayed in good shape.

In the workout, Cooper couldn't handle Bryant, who put stars in West's eyes. West left after watching the two play about 10 minutes.

"I thought you were supposed to guard him," West told Cooper on his way out, according to a story in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Determined to find a way to get Bryant, West considered his options. He began pursuing trade opportunities, willing to swap players for the chance to draft Bryant before another team took him.

The Lakers owed Divac more than $8million over two seasons and he became expendable, especially with O'Neal the team's prime target.

West talked with several teams, including Milwaukee, which proposed a trade for Divac the Lakers declined. Bass heard Divac was available and called West.

With Bryant's agent, Arn Tellem, working to get his client to Los Angeles, the Hornets and Lakers agreed to the draft-day deal. Bryant would become a Hornet, but only as a way to get to Los Angeles.

"We had a pre-arranged deal," Bass said.

Priority No. 1: Hornets

Bass was known for his sharp eye for talent and an ability to get equitable value in trades, but he wasn't considered a risk-taker. With Cowens taking over the team, Bass wanted to be sure the new coach had a big man to build around in the middle.

Bass believed the deal could have a double benefit for the Hornets. Adding Bryant might help convince O'Neal to sign with the Lakers, thereby getting Shaq out of Orlando in the Eastern Conference and, potentially, out of Charlotte's playoff path.

On draft night, there was the possibility another team might take Bryant before the Hornets picked 13th. On the West Coast, West worried. In Charlotte, Bass fretted.

When Cleveland chose Potapenko with the 12th pick, West is reported to have put a bottle of champagne on ice in his office. Minutes later, the Hornets picked Bryant.

Maybe it was coincidence, but Bryant wore a teal and purple necktie the night of the draft, matching the Hornets' team colors. When he met with reporters that evening, Bryant talked about what he had to do in the NBA but not much about where he would do it.

"The main thing I've got to do is prove it to myself," Bryant said. "If I try to prove it to everybody else, the pressure can be overwhelming."

Asked about playing in Charlotte, Bryant said, "I'll get to play alongside Grandmama (Larry Johnson's commercial alter-ego)."

Asked later on draft night if he was being traded to the Lakers, Bryant said, "Man, I don't know. I'm just glad to be in the NBA."

Divac initially balked, saying he would retire before he accepted the trade. The day after the draft, Tellem said he expected his client would "end up in Los Angeles" though he stopped short of demanding the Hornets trade Bryant.

Bass wondered publicly about Bryant's potential.

"He may be really good," Bass said.

One day later, with Divac still stalling the trade, Tellem was more direct when asked if Bryant might wind up playing for the Hornets.

"That is an impossibility. There are no ifs. It would not happen. He is going to be a Laker and that's the only team he's playing for," Tellem said.

There was talk that if the trade didn't go through, Bryant might play professionally in Italy for one season, then attempt to re-enter the draft.


It would take more than a week but Divac – after threatening to return to Yugoslavia – finally agreed to accept the trade to Charlotte, cementing Bryant's future in Los Angeles.

It also got Bass and the Hornets what they wanted.

"We had a chance to get Vlade Divac, an established 7-foot-2-inch center in the league," Bass said. "We won 54 games with Divac the first year and we won 51 games with him the next."

Before a Lakers game against New York in his rookie season, Bryant was asked what would have happened had the Hornets not traded him.

"I'd be a Hornet," Bryant said. "Right now I'd be watching this game on TV."

The Hornets also had the 16th pick in 1996 and they were intent on using it to supplement their backcourt. Guards Muggsy Bogues and Dell Curry were getting older and the Hornets saw the draft as a way to strengthen a weak spot.

Bass wanted to use the 16th pick on Nash, a guard who was relatively unfamiliar to the Charlotte audience because of where he played collegiately. Cowens preferred Kentucky's Tony Delk to Nash.

"He's stronger than Nash, he's quicker than Nash. He's just not the point guard Nash is," Cowens said.

Nash worked out for the Hornets 12 days before the draft and impressed them team officials.

"He's very clever with the ball," Bass said then. "You can see the (John) Stockton comparison."

Phoenix, however, chose Nash with the 15th pick, leaving the Hornets to take Delk.

Early in his second season with the Hornets, Delk (who scored 53 points in a 2001 game for the Phoenix Suns) was traded along with Bogues to Golden State for B.J. Armstrong. Nash, of course, became one of the NBA's all-time great point guards.

Hindsight always works

It's easy to play what might have been with the Hornets' choice of Bryant – and the near-miss with Nash – but it was a different time.

Bryant wasn't seen in quite the same can't miss-way as LeBron James entering the NBA draft. He grew into one of the game's greatest players, but there was no guarantee of that happening in 1996.

Between them, Bryant and Nash have been named the NBA's most valuable player three times in the past six years (Nash in 2004-05 and 2005-06; Bryant in 2007-08) while helping to define the modern professional game.

In retirement in San Antonio, Bass points out that 12 teams passed on Bryant before the Hornets called his name. Six years after that draft, the Hornets had moved to New Orleans. It's easy to think what might be different had Divac refused to accept the trade and Bryant was left with Charlotte as his only option.

On paper, it looks so simple: The Charlotte Hornets drafted Kobe Bryant, then traded him.

"What were they thinking?" Bass asks rhetorically.

"You had to be there."

KOBE BRYANT

Age: 31

Hgt: 6-6

Years pro: 14

Draft: Chosen 13th by Charlotte in the 1996 NBA draft and traded to the Los Angeles Lakers for Vlade Divac.

Career highlights: NBA most valuable player (2007-08). … MVP of the NBA Finals (2009). … Four-time NBA champion (2000, 2001, 2002, 2009). … Averaging 25.3 points and 5.3 rebounds over his career. … In the playoffs, Bryant has averaged 30.2 points per game. … In 2006, he scored 81 points in a game, the second-highest single-game total in NBA history.

STEVE NASH

Age: 36

Hgt: 6-3

Years pro: 14

Draft: Chosen 15th by the Phoenix Suns in the 1996 NBA draft.

Career highlights: Won consecutive NBA most valuable player awards (2004-05 and 2005-06). … Has averaged 14.6 points and 8.2 a.ssists per game in his carreer. … Has playoff averages of 17.3 points and 8.7 rebounds. … Ranks among the NBA's all-time leaders in 3-point percentage, free-throw shooting and a.ssists.
This article says the exact opposite

 7 years ago '06        #5
Vdot88 4 heat pts OP
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 Youngin19 said:
This article says the exact opposite

No, it doesn't. It actually confirms the stuff in the article i posted, and adds some speculation. If you read both, you'll see that the facts - what actually happened in '96 - is the same in both articles:

"When the Charlotte Hornets made Bryant the 13th pick in the 1996 draft, a buzz rippled through the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J., where the event was held. It was an unexpected choice by a team that desperately needed a big man.

But Bryant was never going to be a Charlotte Hornet. The Hornets wanted Los Angeles Lakers center Vlade Divac, and to get him they agreed to draft Bryant and trade him for Divac."

If you'd be rational enough to acknowledge this fact, everything else is moot. But I know you won't so here's more:

"To think we were taking Kobe …" Bass says. "We had a small team and we were looking for size."

"He wouldn't work out with us and that bothered us," Bass said. "We couldn't meet him. His agent was trying to aim him to the Lakers and they threatened us."
 7 years ago '06        #6
Vdot88 4 heat pts OP
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yo, no offense, did you really read the article you posted??
 7 years ago '06        #7
Vdot88 4 heat pts OP
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the only thing you bolded that's remotely worthy of attention is this:

"There was talk that if the trade didn't go through, Bryant might play professionally in Italy for one season, then attempt to re-enter the draft."

which is nothing but speculation, unless you're willing to find me some sources...?
everything in that article you posted shows that the Lakers got Bryant as an extra in addition to Shaq, who the Lakers really wanted. It wasn't Kobe picking the Lakers so much as the Lakers picking Kobe. If you wanna do speculating go back to the first 12 picks and post all the stuff about the reasons they decided to pass on a 17-year old Kobe Bryant.
 7 years ago '08        #8
Future 44 heat pts44
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Hornets lost

Lakers won
 7 years ago '06        #9
Vdot88 4 heat pts OP
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Kobe got lucky more than anything that draft. Not a lot of players end up on a team they wanna play for

He's gotten lucky throughout his career as a Laker too, but that's neither here nor there :D
 7 years ago '06        #10
Vdot88 4 heat pts OP
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 Gattsau said:
r u stupid he refused to wrokout for cha or nj and expressed many times that he wanted to go to a big market team.
 Vdot88 said:
Kobe got lucky more than anything that draft. Not a lot of players end up on a team they wanna play for

He's gotten lucky throughout his career as a Laker too, but that's neither here nor there :D
he (along with his agent) did some risky posturing, and it ended up working in his favor
 7 years ago '06        #11
Vdot88 4 heat pts OP
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the Lakers been gettin' embarrassed on Xmas the last few seasons, where have you been?? :lachen001:
 7 years ago '08        #12
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 Youngin19 said:
This article says the exact opposite

Glad you posted this so I wouldn't have to waste my time pointing out all the holes in the TS article. He only posted this s**t cuz of what I said in another thread. Everybody knows Kobe refused to play for the Hornets.

Nice try stanley, but do some research next time and use common sense.
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